Legislation establishing the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) continues to inch closer and closer to passage, as both the House and Senate bills have each cleared their latest hurdles.
Delegate Delores McQuinn’s bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday night and rereferred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, while Senator Jennifer McClellan’s bill was approved by Commerce Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.
HB 1509 (McQuinn) and SB 1073 (McClellan) create the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund, which will provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities. The effort is a refreshed and revamped form of a bill Delegate McQuinn has carried numerous times the past several years seeking to create the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund (VGIF). While the VGIF sought exclusively to provide funding for public-private partnerships that would aid in opening and expanding grocery stores in underserved communities (“food deserts”), the VFAIF has two components, one focusing on infrastructure and one focusing on nutrition efforts.
Through a selected Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the VFAIF will provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, and/or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative small food retail projects in underserved communities.
On the nutrition incentive side, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) of will partner with public and private sector partners to increase the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers who participate in the Virginia Fresh Match Incentive Program. The Incentive Program provides SNAP recipients with a $1 to $1 match for nutritious fruits and vegetables.
SB 1073 will now be heard by the full House Appropriations Committee while HB 1509 will be heard by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. These bills are not expected to run into much trouble in either committee since each chamber has included funding for this program in their budget recommendations and each committee has already heard each bill’s counterpart.
VACo has been proud to support the VFAIF and speak on behalf of these bills in subcommittee and committee hearings.
VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.