RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced today a total of $300,000 in grant funding from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF). The VFAIF grants were awarded to a mix of six businesses and non-profit organizations to help them expand retail fresh food access to underserved communities.
“When we can partner directly with the private sector to both grow their customer base and improve the lives of our fellow Virginians by improving their access to fresh, local foods, we are moving Virginia forward,” said Joseph Guthrie, VDACS Commissioner.
Established in 2020, the VFAIF Program awards grants of up to $50,000 per project to support the development or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects that increase food access in low-income, low-access communities. VFAIF funded projects must have a retail component, accept federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and participate in the Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives program. Virginia Fresh Match helps people access healthy and affordable food by doubling the value of their SNAP dollars when buying Virginia grown fruits and vegetables.
The following projects will receive funding in this round of VFAIF awards:
Feeding Southwest Virginia, City of Salem
Feeding Southwest Virginia’s Mobile Marketplace is a “grocery store on wheels” that delivers fresh, convenient, and affordable groceries to more than 20 underserved rural communities in Southwest Virginia. The Mobile Marketplace augments the program’s food donation program by offering additional grocery items, such as locally grown produce, for purchase. The program also conducts SNAP outreach and education to build consumer spending power. Funding will be used to support the Mobile Marketplace’s operations, including staff, fuel costs, and food purchase costs, to help the program continue to reach food insecure and underserved communities.
FRESHFARM, Fairfax County
FRESHFARM is a non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture and improves food access in the Mid-Atlantic region via Pop-Up Food Hubs (PUFH), a local produce distribution program helps deliver healthy produce to consumers and generates additional revenue for local farms. In 2021, FRESHFARM used VFAIF funding to partner with 11 community organizations, distribute over 15,000 units of wholesale produce to over 2,332 Virginians, and generate nearly $200,000 of revenue for six Virginia farms. Renewed funding will support PUFH expansion into Northern Virginia through at least four more community partnerships, expanding access for SNAP customers to purchase local produce and sales opportunities for area farmers.
Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), City of Roanoke
The Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) is a food and agriculture nonprofit based in Roanoke. In 2021, LEAP received COVID-response funds to expand and enhance Roanoke’s local food system and purchase a building in an underserved neighborhood that will become the West End Hub retail store. LEAP will aggregate food on-site from farm and food hub partners and will accept SNAP, Virginia Fresh Match, Medicaid, and WIC participants. VFAIF funding will support produce sales and processing infrastructure for the store.
Lee District Community Farm Market, Fairfax County
Arcadia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area. With VFAIF funding, Arcadia will establish a weekly community farm market on the site of a new community center that serves low-income communities in Fairfax County. The farm market will be stocked by Arcadia’s working farm and provide a retail outlet for veteran farmers. VFAIF funding will support the new farm market, veteran farmer outreach, and grow customer buying power through increased SNAP redemption and use of the Virginia Fresh Match program.
River City Market, City of Richmond
River City Market, a small food retailer in Richmond’s Brookland Park neighborhood, serves over 10,000 residents in the surrounding neighborhoods which suffer from poor access to fresh foods. Funding will support the market’s “Fresh Start” initiative, which includes a major expansion of produce sales and weekly mobile markets.
Wakefield Great Valu, Sussex County
Wakefield Great Valu is the only full-service grocery store in Sussex and Surry counties. The VFAIF funding will be used for the full replacement and expansion of the store’s produce cases. This equipment overhaul will increase the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available to its customers and increase the store’s ability to source of local produce. Wakefield Great Valu accepts SNAP and Virginia Fresh Match, with over one-third of their monthly sales coming through SNAP purchases.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS