Virginia invested $1.25 million in its new budget for the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund so that more vulnerable residents – we’re talking children, families, seniors and people with disabilities – can have better access to healthy fruits and vegetables. More than 1.7 million Virginians, including 480,000 children live in underserved communities – rural, urban and suburban.
The fund will invest in healthy food projects and businesses by providing resources to support the establishment, construction, upgrade and expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers and other food retail projects in underserved communities across the commonwealth.
It will also help Virginians access and afford more nutritious fruits and vegetables by increasing the number of retailers that accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $1 to $1 match incentive, Virginia Fresh Match.
“Think of the $1 to $1 match incentive as a buy one, get one free program,” said Chelsi Bennett, the Virginia state government relations director for the American Heart Association. “For every $1 recipients spend on qualifying fruits and vegetables, they get $1 more for free. By increasing the number of retailers that accept the match incentive, we are helping financially strapped Virginians have greater access to purchase and prepare healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Also included in the funding is one full time staff member within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This person will be integral to the success and implementation of the program.