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Project Grows awarded grant to provide greater food access

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Project Grows in Augusta County isn’t just focused on education, but food advocacy that spans all ages. A food access grant from the state is going to help them get fresh, seasonal produce to even more people who need it.

“Everybody deserves the right to have healthy food,” said Megan Marshall, Project Grows’ director of food access.

She says the conversation started with community partners to figure out where food access needs were in the community.

Senior housing complexes were right at the top of the list. Project Grows responded with a new Mobile Community Market Program. They picked a senior complex in Staunton tackling one of the biggest barriers to food access: transportation.

“These mobile markets are bringing food directly to individuals in our community who might not have access otherwise,” Marshall said.

Senior vouchers and Virginia Fresh Match for SNAP customers help with affordability barriers.

“If they spend $10 they’ll get $20 to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables,” stated Marshall.

The $50,000 state grant will pay for a van, so Project Grows can trade in their tents and tables and get to even more locations.

“We’re hoping with this mobile vehicle we’ll have our produce on the van and distribute it in the community that way which would be a lot more efficient,” said Marshall. “We’re really hoping to be advocates for food access for all.”

Project Grows expects to have the Mobile Community Market Program expanded and the van up and running by next summer.

Project GROWS Awarded VFAIF Grant for 2022 Mobile Markets

Project GROWS announces their successful procurement of the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund Grant (VFAIF), awarded by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services July 28, 2021. The VFAIF is a statewide program promoting food equity and justice by investing in food system retailers and community leaders addressing food insecurity and access issues in the Commonwealth. This grant will award $49,642 to Project GROWS in service to the nonprofit’s upcoming 2022 Mobile Community Markets, a venture aligned with the VFAIF’s mission of building food accessibility in communities with traditionally low food access.

With a ten year background in farm-based education and food access advocacy, the innovative Mobile Market is a natural step in the Project GROWS mission of improving community health through food, farming, and community leadership. “The Mobile Community Markets are a unique collaboration between local producers, community leaders, and state and federal nutrition programs working towards eliminating barriers for both the consumer and producer in accessing vibrant market places,” says Megan Marshall, Project GROWS Director of Food Access.

The substantive impact this program will have on food accessibility in communities across Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County is previewed by Project GROWS’ current 2021 pilot mobile market at Gypsy Hill House. The Staunton senior living community, comprised of fixed-income elderly folks with transportation, health and economic barriers to food access, now receives local fresh, seasonal, nutritional food options through Project GROWS and their partnership with Calixto Farms of Fishersville, VA.

The Mobile Community Markets are projected to be open and operational by May of 2022. The Markets will strengthen current food access initiatives including the Virginia Fresh Match SNAP/EBT program, as well as the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program backed by the Central Shenandoah Health District, local farmers, The Valley Program for Aging Services, and more.

Thanks to the generous VFAIF Grant, Project GROWS can now secure critical infrastructure needed to expand Mobile Market locations. To learn more about the 2022 Mobile Community Markets, contact the Project GROWS Director of Food Access, Megan Marshall at megan@projectgrows.org.

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