The Philadelphia-based non-profit, The Food Trust, estimates as many as 1.7 million Virginians live in low income areas with limited supermarket access. Two state legislators are working on what they hope will be a bi-partisan solution - a state Grocery Investment Fund.
Republican Virginia Senator Bill Stanley is taking on the problem alongside Democratic Delegate Delores McQuinn. “I am honored to be a bi-partisan patron of the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund in the 2018 General Assembly with my good friend Delegate McQulnn,” said Senator Stanley at a roundtable discussion on the topic Monday (8/28).
The fund would serve as a starting point for forming public-private partnerships that put grocery stores in communities with low food access.
Stanley says, as a starting point, he and Delegate McQuinn would like to ask the General Assembly for $5 million. He hinted that some of the money could come from a combination of sources besides the state’s General Fund. “We could even look to the Tobacco Commission and some of the tobacco footprint region to see if there's some combination investment because those are public funds. So, I think we have to look at every way to make sure we can put together $5 million,” he said.
Both Senator Stanley and Delegate McQuinn are working with their respective chambers as well as First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe on the issue.
During the panel discussion, she pointed out that the Governor has allotted funds in previous budget proposals. McAuliffe and others on the panel were optimistic Monday that the measure will find success in the 2018 General Assembly session.
“For a small amount of state investment, we can leverage a lot of private investment in making sure that everyone has access to affordable, healthy, nutritious food and that’s really the goal of what the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund is all about,” First Lady McAuliffe told reporters after the event.
Other panel participants included Virginia Commerce and Trade Secretary Todd Haymore, FeedMore CEO Doug Pick, Honor Capital LLC President Jim Allen, Local Food Hub Executive Director Kristen Suokko, and James Wallace with Virginia Community Capital.