The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) inaugural grant application process is open! Managed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the VFAIF focuses on equity and justice in local food systems by investing in new or expanding food retailers that address food access issues in the Commonwealth. VFAIF offers grants and loans to fund the business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades and expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in historically marginalized communities.
Food acts as a common thread between history and culture, neighborhood empowerment and economic sustainability, and healthier lifestyles. The VFAIF program was created using the Equitable Food-Oriented Development model, a development strategy that uses food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy neighborhoods and that explicitly seeks to build community assets, pride, and power by and with historically marginalized communities.
Awards range from $5,000-$50,000 and funding can be used for infrastructure, equipment, and site development. Applicants may be individuals, farms, nonprofit organizations (including faith-based), or for-profit businesses. A project example could be a corner grocery store wants to expand their selection of fresh produce, so the owners write a proposal to VFAIF requesting funding for a refrigeration unit and an updated point-of-sale system that is compatible with SNAP/EBT. Likewise, a downtown co-op market wants to add a mobile component or a café wants to expand to include fresh products, in addition to pre-prepared foods.
Whatever the project, the first step of the application process is to submit a pre-proposal to VDACS program staff and schedule a call to discuss the proposed project. The application window closes on April 30, 2021. The presentation found here will provide background on the program and how to apply. For additional resources, check out the website and contact Sara Santa Cruz with questions.