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Rural Development invests $1.6 million to increase access to healthy foods in West Virginia

West Virginia Press Association

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development West Virginia State Director Ryan Thorn today announced that USDA is partnering with ReInvestment Fund to award Appalachian FoodWorks Partnership a $1.6 million grant to help organizations strengthen local food financing programs and improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities across West Virginia.

“Access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food is something that every West Virginian should have, no matter where they live,” said Thorn. “President Biden and Rural Development are committed to supporting local and regional food systems so people won’t need to travel far from home to find fresh, healthy food. The Appalachian FoodWorks Partnership will be an invaluable resource to help bring health options to our most underserved communities.”

The Appalachian FoodWorks Partnership, a recently formed alliance of organizations with a decade-long history of collaboration, focuses on nutrition access, technical assistance, and resource development. The partnership combines state government (WV Dept. of Agriculture), West Virginia University (Center for Resilient Communities and Family Nutrition Program), community-based lenders (Partner Community Capital), and the nonprofit sector (WV Food and Farm Coalition). The Appalachian FoodWorks Partnership will enhance food access, supply chain resilience, and economic development through the strategic deployment of grants, loans, and technical support to established retailers, startups, and food enterprises in underserved communities across West Virginia and bordering counties in Central Appalachia.

“This will project work with the West Virginia Rural Grocer Network, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, Partner Community Capital and the WVU Center for Reslient Communities to provide personalized support and technical assistnace, coupled with grants and low-interest loans to locally-owned grocery stores and mid-teir value chain businesses,” said Spencer Moss, Executive Director of the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition. “It’s through these activities that the project will help business not just be sustainable, but thrive as they provide essential services to the community.”

Through funding made available primarily by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Reinvestment Fund has selected 16 public-private partnerships to receive $40.3 million in grants under the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Local & Regional Healthy Food Financing Partnerships Program to expand access to nutritious and affordable foods in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

This program provides financing to local, state and regional organizations that partner together to provide financing and technical assistance to food retailers in underserved communities. Funding for this program is made possible by the 2023 expansion of HFFI, which created the HFFI Partnerships Program to bring in new partners that can address food access for even more underserved communities than before.

This announcement is part of USDA’s comprehensive set of efforts, bolstered by funding made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, to create more and better markets that benefit both producers and American consumers. HFFI is designed to support new and expanded markets for a diversity of growers while helping people access healthy foods.

For more information about Rural Development in West Virginia, visit www.rd.usda.gov/wv or contact your local Rural Development office.

Background

This announcement was part of a larger $40.3 million announcement made by USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small on April 17 in New Mexico. That announcement included 16 partnerships representing 75 local organizations in 20 states and Washington, D.C. A full description of the partner organizations, their respective missions, and the communities they serve is available online.

Many low-income communities lack adequate, affordable access to healthy food. HFFI provides grants and loans to entities that offer healthy foods in communities that are underserved by grocery stores and other food retailers. The program increases access to healthy foods, provides new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers, stabilizes small and independent retailers, and creates good-paying jobs and economic opportunity in low-income communities.

Through the HFFI, USDA partners with Reinvestment Fund to bring healthy food options to underserved rural, urban and Tribal communities. Reinvestment Fund serves as the National Fund Manager for USDA. It raises capital; provides financial and technical assistance to regional, state and local partnerships; and helps fund projects to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved areas.

In August 2023, Reinvestment Fund expanded America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative to include the new HFFI Local and Regional Healthy Food Financing Partnerships Program. 

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas.

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