Leaders from across the Commonwealth, along with national grocery and hunger advocates, gathered at FeedMore in Richmond to make the case for the establishment of the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund. The panel at the “Closer To My Grocer: A Roundtable About the Need for the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund” included Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore, State Senator Bill Stanley (R-Moneta), and Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond), among others.
The Virginia Grocery Investment Fund, which will be proposed during the upcoming 2018 session of the General Assembly, aims to proactively address the critical and growing problem of “food deserts” in the Commonwealth. Currently, 1.7 million Virginians, including 480,000 children, live in low income areas with limited supermarket access. In these areas, Virginians cannot access fresh produce, lean meats and other nutritious food products. This has real consequences. Without easy access to affordable and healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are out of reach, and as a result, diet related diseases, like diabetes and heart disease – especially among children – are on the rise in the state. And all Virginians are impacted directly or indirectly in the form of decreased workforce productivity and higher healthcare costs.
The Fund will be a means by which to establish public-private partnerships that will help grocery stores locate in these areas, and help Virginians access healthy, nutritious food in their communities.
Speaking about the roundtable, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe remarked, “The Virginia Grocery Investment Fund is an example of the smart, inclusive policies we can create when we bring together partners from across the food system. Our administration has focused on promoting collaborative, community-driven solutions to food access in Virginia, and this legislation will continue that important work.”
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore added, “Today’s roundtable highlights the importance of ensuring every citizen has access to quality, nutritious food. Through critical investments, like the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund, we can work with local communities and private sector partners to eliminate food deserts, expand markets for farmers to sell Virginia-grown agricultural products, foster community development and revitalization, and improve the health and quality of lives of our citizens.”
State Senator Bill Stanley, who will carry legislation to create the Fund, noted, “Over the years grocery stores have left communities due to factors unrelated to customer demand. We can foster greater revitalization by helping grocery stores and other innovative food retail projects get up and running in these communities. I believe in supporting small businesses, creating jobs, and improving people’s access to healthy foods. The Virginia Grocery Investment Fund will enhance the free market by serving communities that currently lack access, not demand. A win-win-win for Virginia’s economy.
Delegate Delores McQuinn stated, “Every day many people in Virginia face challenges of food insecurity and limited access to healthy foods when there are food deserts in their community. The campaign to create the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund continues my efforts of informing and educating the public that this problem is real, but that we have a solution.”