RICHMOND, Va. — Businesses and non-profit entities seeking to expand access to fresh food in low-income, low-access communities are encouraged to apply for the second round of the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF). With funding awards ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, VFAIF grants can be used to support business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, or innovative food retail projects that improve food security in low-income, low access communities. The application deadline is February 22, 2022.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) administers the program and works with applicants to develop projects. All VFAIF applicants must attend one “How to Apply” webinar. Click here to access webinar dates and access information. The VFAIF program follows the Equitable Food-Oriented Development model of using food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy neighborhoods in historically marginalized communities. A completed Equitable Food-Oriented Self-Assessment must accompany each application.
“The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund provides a unique opportunity to develop and sustain community-based businesses, provide access to fruit and vegetables within underserved areas of the Commonwealth, and support Virginia’s agricultural industry,” said Brad Copenhaver, Commissioner of VDACS.
In 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 1509, sponsored by Delegate Delores McQuinn, and Senate Bill 1073, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, creating the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund. The inaugural round of VFAIF grants totaled more than $620,000 and was awarded to 15 projects spread across the Commonwealth. Click here for a listing of the 2020 VFAIF recipients.
The VFAIF program supports the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, a unified set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the current public health emergency and beyond. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 850,000 Virginians were food insecure, including 250,000 children. Rates increased by approximately 20 percent during the ongoing public health crisis, with an additional 150,000 Virginians experiencing food insecurity.
For additional information on the VFAIF program or application workshops, please contact Sara Santa Cruz at (804) 398-0382.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS