Learn more about successful projects and research studies advancing healthy food access in the community:
State & Local Policy Efforts
Virginia Fresh Food Loan Fund
Virginia Community Capital (VCC) is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and bank that serves the entire commonwealth of Virginia. In 2013, VCC launched the Virginia Fresh Food Loan Fund (VFFLF) to enhance access to nutritious foods in Virginia’s inner cities, small towns and rural communities. As a CDFI, VCC supports small businesses and community development projects by offering flexible capital, investment opportunities and advisory services. With a commitment to finance $10 million in projects through the VFFLF, VCC works with a wide range of healthy food enterprises, including grocery stores, food hubs, healthy food manufacturers and processors, mobile markets, farmers markets and food cooperatives.
Two years after VFFLF was established, VCC received a $2.6 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund, which included $1 million in grant funds from the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). This grant allowed VCC to enhance its investment in healthy food projects serving lower-income, underserved communities throughout Virginia.
VCC works closely with various state agencies, including the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Forestry. VCC also serves on the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide and partners with the American Heart Association and The Food Trust to secure state funds to help launch a public-partnership dedicated to improving food access. Additionally, VCC is a member of Reinvestment Fund’s ReFresh Initiative, a national network of practitioners engaged to improve access to healthy food across the United States.
Virginia Grocery Investment Fund: Closer to My Grocer Campaign
Efforts to improve food access in Virginia have been underway for several years. In 2012 and 2013, Delegate Delores McQuinn introduced House Joint Resolutions to direct the General Assembly to examine the issue of food deserts. In 2013, the Virginia General Assembly commissioned Virginia Tech and Virginia State University to lead a Food Desert Task Force to study the issue. In 2014, Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 34 to create the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide, chaired by First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.
Shortly after, as part of the Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, the local American Heart Association affiliate began working on an advocacy campaign for state investment in a healthy food financing initiative. They partnered with The Food Trust to create a mapping report illustrating areas with the greatest need for improved healthy food access across Virginia. Prior to the 2016 General Assembly session, they formed the Closer to My Grocer Coalition, made up of leaders from the business and health sectors, children’s advocacy groups, localities, grocery industry experts and others. The coalition seeks to establish the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund, to provide financing to grocers to encourage them to develop or renovate markets in lower-income, underserved areas.
In December 2015, Governor McAuliffe included $10 million in his budget for the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund. During session, the Senate appropriated $2.5 million for a pilot program, but the House of Delegates did not include any funding for it in their budget. Therefore, the final 2016- 2018 biennium budget did not include any funding for the program. Advocates are continuing to call for state investment in a fund that will increase access to healthy food retail in communities that need it most.
Virginia Food Access Network (VFAN)
Founded in 2017 by the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutrition Divide, the Virginia Food Access Network (VFAN) provides data and resources to support stakeholders in identifying gaps to maximize their impact and better sere Virginians struggling with access to healthy food and hunger. The VFAN website is available to the public at feedva.org.
The VFAN website includes up to date tools and resources such as interactive maps describing childhood hunger, health outcomes, and access to nutrition in Virginia. Users can also view the organizations working to increase access to healthy food via an interactive map and filtered by mission. Toolkits and resources hosted on feedva.org offer a broad range of approaches to food access issues.
The Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide was founded in 2014 by Governor Terry McAuliffe in order to achieve three main objectives:
- Eliminate childhood hunger in Virginia by increasing participation in nutrition assistance programs
- Promote Virginia’s leading industry – agriculture – and increase access to affordable, healthy, and local foods
- Facilitate efficient and effective local initiatives related to community nutrition, food access, and health strategies and programs across the Commonwealth
The council is working to achieve these goals through partnerships with state agencies, national, regional, and local nonprofits, local governments, schools, and private businesses, and with increased data sharing and research.