CHAMBERSBURG — Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin were in Chambersburg Thursday to announce grant funding through Pennsylvania’s $10 million Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
The Fresh Food Financing Initiative was funded at $10 million through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and opened in July to for-profit, nonprofit, or cooperative entities including grocery stores, corner stores, convenience stores, neighborhood markets, bodegas, food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets, on-farm markets, urban farms, and food aggregation centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets.
“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the challenges that many Pennsylvanians face in accessing fresh, local food,” said Davin. “The Fresh Food Financing Initiative was developed to ensure that no one in our commonwealth will struggle to fill their pantry and the food supply chain will remain stable, whether during a crisis, emergency, or during times of normalcy.”
The announcement was held at Karimar Grocery on South Third Street in Chambersburg.
Karimar Grocery, a minority, woman-owned neighborhood store, experienced increased demand for perishable and staple food products throughout the pandemic.
Their $55,000 grant will fund the purchase of equipment – such as refrigerators, freezers, coolers, and a meat grinder – to allow them to store more fresh meat, dairy, and produce and will cover expenditures already made to create a safe, healthy shopping environment in the low-income, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community they serve.
Other Franklin County businesses to be awarded grants includes: La Michoacana Mexican Store, $40,000; North Square Farmers Market, $6,300; Haitian Caribbean Minimart, $10,382; and El Gallo Garcia LLC, $40,000.
“It is important to keep residents of the commonwealth safe and informed. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Latino community, placing this population at a greater disadvantage,” said Luz B. Colón, executive director to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. “Programs like the Fresh Food Financing Initiative help secure food resources to our minority communities and ensure that it will reach the families that need it the most.”
To be eligible, more than 70 percent of sales were required to be from staple, perishable foods to consumers and the retailer must serve customers who live in a low-to-moderate income area. Applicants were also required to demonstrate limited food access as a result of COVID-19 or that direct-to-consumer retail expansion is necessary due to lost or disrupted markets. Eligible applicants were required to accept SNAP and WIC or have plans to accept them through completion of the project.
The $10 million FFFI grant program funded 115 projects in 39 counties. The projects fund expenses related to PPE and other in-store COVID-19 mitigation efforts, expansions, refrigeration, online marketing materials, mobile market enhancements, and more.
“There are three keys to food security — Is food available, is food affordable, and is food safe?” Redding said. “The Fresh Food Financing Initiative helps make ‘yes’ the answer to all three questions. Early in the pandemic, we were all shocked by the empty grocery store shelves. This program has given us the ability to offset the costs food retailers have incurred in making fresh, nutritious food available while safeguarding their employees and customers.”