The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $240,157 in grants to two rural Maryland projects to provide healthy food to residents.
The grant awards are made possible through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a $22.6 million nationwide effort to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities. USDA Rural Development State Director for Delaware and Maryland, David Baker, praised the investment in a press release:
‘Access to healthy and affordable food options should be available to all residents of Delaware and Maryland, regardless of where they live,’ said Director Baker. ‘I’m thrilled that Rural Development’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, in partnership with the Reinvestment Fund, has invested more than $430k to three businesses and organizations [in] our states to help expand access to healthy foods, provide new opportunities for small producers, and strengthen local independent retailers.’
The awarded projects in Maryland include the following
- Mancuso Foods, LLC, Oasis Fresh Foods Market, Indian Head, MD, is receiving $200,000. The Indian Head Grocer Initiative is a grassroots partnership of residents and local small business working to break the chain of food insecurity in Indian Head, Maryland, a community with no place within a 7-mile radius to purchase fresh food. HFFI funds will support initial development costs for the community to open a grocery store that will source local produce, meats, seafood and prepared meals to go.
- VFF Produce, VFF Produce Mobile Farmers Market, Hagerstown, MD, is receiving $40,157. VFF Produce was established in 2019 after receiving a grant to run a mobile farmers market in Hagerstown, MD, which has a poverty rate of more than twice that of the county and three times that of the state as a whole. VFF produce seeks funding to support the continuation and upgrades of their operations that support their mission of bring affordable, fresh foods directly to the low-income, elderly, and often immobile, residents.
The USDA had previously announced it is committing $155 million to HFFI to be delivered in partnership with the Reinvestment Fund. Interested individuals can visit the USDA-operated Food Access Research Atlas for additional information regarding locations needing healthy food retailers.