In 2013, Virginia Community Capital made a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America Commitment to Action to launch the Virginia Fresh Food Loan Fund (VFFLF) to facilitate healthy food enterprises in urban and rural communities throughout Virginia. The prevalence of food deserts across Virginia illustrates the fact that the state’s rural and urban communities often lack access to healthy, fresh foods, which can lead to poor nutrition, obesity, and preventable disease. VCC has collaborated with national organizations by sharing their expertise on innovative fresh food financing solutions which address social issues, such as food deserts. For further information, please click here.
This past year, VCC has successfully raised and self-funded $10 million to capitalize the VFFLF. VCC has already deployed $600,000 from the fund to projects increasing access to healthy foods in Virginia communities and also has an active pipeline for VFFLF financing totaling $3 million to fund food hubs (facilities that manage the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, or marketing of locally produced food), food enterprises, and retailers. Inquiries and requests for healthy food financing from food hubs, aggregators, and food enterprises are on the rise.
The VFFLF offers small business technical assistance and lending opportunities to increase the capacity of urban retailers to sell and market healthy items and foster the expansion and formation of food hubs, as well as small and medium sized food enterprises, primarily located in rural communities. VCC has created a new role for a Fresh Food Project Coordinator to provide increased attention to food enterprise technical assistance. Jane Henderson, VCC’s President & CEO, stated, “According to the USDA Food Atlas, 17% of Virginia residents lack access to healthy, local, and fresh foods. The VFFLF is designed to help these residents have access to these foods.”
Ms. Henderson was asked by CGI America to lead a discussion group on innovative healthy food financing to address food deserts in June of this year at the annual CGI America event. The discussion group she led explored two new initiatives – how to create more food hubs / aggregators and a new “equity-like” product for retail food stores. CGI America 2014 brought more than 1,000 leaders from the business, foundation, NGO, and government sectors together to collaborate and contribute their expertise to issue-specific working groups.
VCC will report on its CGI America Commitment to Action for a three-year period which started in 2013. VCC anticipates developing private funding partners for the project, including impact investors looking for mission related investments in the healthy foods arena. To learn more about impact investing in the healthy food space, please contact Teri Lovelace, Community Investments & Impact Manager, at 804.793.0978 or [email protected].
Over the past five years, Virginia has experienced a concentrated movement toward increasing access to fresh and locally grown food. As this movement continues to gain momentum, VCC has continued outreach efforts to many local and statewide coalitions and partners, and has been invited to participate in several of their organized events. As a direct result of this targeted outreach, VCC has generated inquiries for their active pipeline and begun discussion with potential funders. For more information about VCC’s VFFLF, please contact Wayne Waldrop, Small Business Manager, at 804.793.0986 or [email protected].
VCC has successfully closed the first two loans, including one for a local grocer and food aggregator, as follows:
Spotlight on Glade Green Grocer
The first VFFLF was provided to Glade Green Grocer, a whole foods retailer and food cooperative hybrid located in Glade Spring, Virginia. The new store expands upon the “healthy foods” movement emerging nationally and plays a key role in the revitalization of this rural town in Southwest Virginia. For further information, please click here.
Spotlight on Health Warrior
The second VFFLF was provided to Health Warrior, one of the fastest growing natural food companies in the U.S. Their core products are Chia Bar Super Snacks and natural chia seeds which are currently sold in 6,000 stores nationwide. For further information, please click here.
About Virginia Community Capital
With offices in Christiansburg, Richmond, and Springfield, Virginia Community Capital (VCC) is dedicated to the prospect of building wealth for all through our lending, deposits, and advisory services. As a community development financial institution (CDFI), our mission is to offer innovative, flexible financial products designed to support housing and community development ventures, increase jobs, and encourage sustainable communities. In partnership with our for-profit bank, Community Capital Bank of Virginia (CCB), the non-profit VCC offers loan capital broader and more flexible than bank lending in low-to-moderate income communities in underserved geographies and markets. Learn more at vacommunitycapital.org.