Virginia awards $300,000 to projects to improve access to fresh food

Watchful Eye

This week, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (VDACS) announced that $300,000 is being awarded for six projects that aim to improve underserved communities' access to fresh food.

In a media release, VDACS explained where that money is going and how it will be used.

Feeding Southwest Virginia in Salem has a Mobile Marketplace that acts as a grocery store on wheels serving over 20 rural communities in Southwest Virginia. The organization will use the grant funds from VDACS to support those operations, including staff, fuel costs, and food purchase costs, to help the organization continue to reach food insecure and underserved communities.

FRESHFARM in Fairfax has Pop-Up Food Hubs, a local produce distribution program, which helps deliver produce to consumers while generating additional revenue for local farms. Last year, the organization received funding and distributed over 15,000 units of wholesale produce to over 2,332 Virginians and generated nearly $200,000 of revenue for six Virginia farms, VDACS reported. With renewed funding, this year, the organization will expand its food hubs into Northern Virginia.

Lee District Community Farm Market, also in Fairfax, received funding that will allow Arcadia, a nonprofit with a working farm, to establish a weekly community farm market at a new community center that serves low-income communities. In addition to supporting the farmer’s market, the grant funds will be used for veteran farmer outreach and to grow customer buying power through increased SNAP redemption and use of the Virginia Fresh Match program.

River City Market, a Richmond-based retailer, serves neighborhoods with poor access to fresh foods. Its grant funds will be used to support its “Fresh Start” initiative, which includes a major expansion of produce sales and weekly mobile markets.

Wakefield Great Valu, the only full-service grocery store in Sussex and Surry, will use its funding for the full replacement and expansion of the store’s produce cases. Doing so is supposed to allow the store to increase the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The grant money for these projects is being provided through the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund, also known as VFAIF.

To qualify for a grant, the project must have a retail component, accept federal SNAP benefits and participate in the Virginia Fresh Match program, which doubles the value of SNAP dollars when buying Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables.

“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 via a media release.

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