RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that 15 projects across the Commonwealth will receive a total of over $620,000 in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) grants. The Governor made the announcement at an event with Richmond Food Justice Alliance, which will receive funding to support a new mobile food market with Shalom Farms.
First launched in 2020
, the VFAIF provides grants between $5,000 and $50,000 to support business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, or innovative food retail projects that increase food access in underserved communities. VFAIF follows the Equitable Food-Oriented Development model of using food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy neighborhoods in historically marginalized communities.
“Hunger and food insecurity are a reality for too many Virginia families, and the pandemic has only underscored the urgency of this crisis,” said Governor Northam. “At its core, the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund is about addressing the root causes of low food access and increasing equity and justice in our local food systems. I am pleased to see the innovation and dedication of businesses and organizations who are helping to advance our shared goals of building strong, resilient food supply chains in historically marginalized communities and making fresh, nutritious food available to Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth.”
In 2020, Governor 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 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.
“I have spent many years advocating for equity in providing healthy and affordable food options to all citizens of the Commonwealth,” saidDelegate Delores McQuinn. “This investment program is a great start to address the ongoing challenge of food insecurities that have been so prevalent in this period of social and economic deficit. I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and commitment to addressing food inequities across Virginia.”
In addition to supporting equitable food access in food deserts, the program works to increase the availability of fresh, healthy foods. VFAIF projects include a food retail component that accepts federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and offers the Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives program. Virginia Fresh Match doubles the value of SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, increasing access to healthy foods and supporting local farmers.
“Studies have proven time and again that people in areas without access to fresh food are disproportionately affected by negative health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan. “Not only does the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund help alleviate this disparity, it pushes investment into historically underserved communities that have often struggled to access capital.”
“Addressing food insecurity has been and continues to be a priority for the Northam Administration,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund achieves three important goals of providing access to healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while also investing in local economies and supporting Virginia agriculture.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides technical assistance and works with applicants in developing projects. The VFAIF application can be accessed through the VDACS website
The following projects are receiving funding in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund grants:
Beans and Rice, Pulaski County
This project will support a fresh food mobile market that will operate four days per week with stops determined in partnership with area churches, community members, and local governments, including the Pulaski County Department of Social Services, to ensure maximum benefit to food insecure residents.