RICHMOND, Va. – Governor Ralph Northam announced that the application period for the inaugural Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) starts Friday and will remain open until April 30, 2021.
VFAIF will provide grants of between $ 5,000 to $ 50,000 to support business development, construction, equipment rehabilitation and upgrades, grocery and snack retailer expansion, or innovative food retail projects that improve food access in underserved communities.
According to the University of Virginia, Danville-Pittsylvania County is a food wasteland.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of food insecurity, and historically marginalized groups are bearing a disproportionate burden,” said Northam. “This fund will support our ongoing work to strengthen local food systems by encouraging investment in the food desert and increasing access to affordable nutritious food where it is most needed, which will in turn help stimulate regional economies and improve the health of our communities as a whole. . “
Earlier this year, Northam signed House Bill 1509, sponsored by Del. Delores McQuinn, and Senate Bill 1073, sponsored by and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, created the Virginia Food Access Fund and Investment Program.
Investing in innovative food retailing strategies through the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund is one of the goals outlined in the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger.
“Many Virginia residents face the challenge of finding enough food to maintain a healthy diet for their families,” said McQuinn. “This problem affects residents in urban and rural areas, especially those living in low-income and minority communities. The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund provides resources to make farmers’ markets, mobile markets, grocery stores, cooperatives, or corner store supermarkets the communities that need them most. “
About 1.7 million Virginia people – including 480,000 children – live in low-income areas with limited access to healthy food.
Virginia has dedicated significant federal stimulus funds to address food insecurity, including $ 219 million for the EBT Pandemic program through the Department of Social Services, $ 85 million for child nutrition programs, $ 7 million to support food banks, and $ 1.4 million to provide lunchbox to Virginia. family through the “We Care” initiative.
“Studies show that people living in communities without supermarkets often suffer disproportionately from obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems,” says McClellan. “The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund can help correct this error. The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund not only helps position the Commonwealth as a leader in reducing food disparities, but also helps build community assets, pride, and power by and with communities that have been historically marginalized. “
VFAIF follows the Just Food Oriented Development model of using food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy environments in historically marginalized communities. Historically marginalized communities as defined in VFAIF are minority or underserved, and those with poor access to food.
“Addressing food safety remains a priority for this administration and the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the importance of this work,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The Virginia Food Investment Fund is a unique opportunity to successfully develop and sustain community-based businesses, provide access to safe and healthy food within the under-served Commonwealth areas, and support the Virginia agricultural industry.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) will administer the program in partnership with selected Community Development Financial Institutions.
The VFAIF application can be accessed via the VDACS website. A Fair and complete Food Oriented Self-Assessment must be included with every request.
“VDACS employs a food access program coordinator to facilitate VFAIF, provides technical assistance and outreach to provide applicants, and assists with grant application and implementation processes,” said VDACS Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh. “We are also scheduling several virtual workshops to assist potential food-based organizations partners in the application process.”