Governor Tom Wolf announced that $10 million is now available for Pennsylvania businesses that have worked to maintain access to fresh, healthy food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pennsylvania’s food retailers stepped up to the plate to protect those putting food on the shelf, to think outside of the box to protect the most vulnerable, and to make investments to support those using assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC to support their families,” said Gov. Wolf. “I will be forever grateful to those who have worked hard to ensure food is always accessible through this pandemic; our frontline workers in grocery stores and farmers markets are among Pennsylvania’s heroes.”
The Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund — funded through the CARES Act — is available to for-profit, nonprofit, or cooperative entities impacted by COVID-19, 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.
To be eligible, more than 50 percent of sales must be from staple and perishable foods to consumers and the retailer must serve customers that live in a low-to-moderate income area. Applicants must also provide access to affordable, high-quality fresh produce, meat and dairy products and other healthy grocery items for low-to-moderate income shoppers, and must accept SNAP and WIC to the maximum extent possible.
In recognition of the disproportionate impacts of both COVID-19 and food apartheid on communities made up of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and especially Black and African American communities, prioritization will be given to businesses owned by minorities and serving low-income BIPOC communities. Additional prioritization criteria include businesses located in or serving a USDA-designated food desert; businesses sourcing and selling Pennsylvania grown or processed products to the extent practicable; and applicants with supplier diversity and offering increased business opportunities for Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises, Veteran Business Enterprises, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprises; and Disability-Owned Business Enterprises.
“This pandemic has revealed many things, one of the most prevalent has been about where our food comes from – how it gets from the farm to those who need it. This relief fund is about strengthening the local food system and improving food security and nutrition,” said Sec. Redding. “We need to stimulate local economies, increase market opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers, create jobs, and contribute to better health by improving access to fresh, local foods – we need to feed Pennsylvania, now and in the years to come. And that is all a part of this initiative.”
The program is administered by the Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Department of Community and Economic Development. Applications will be accepted through August 14, 2020. Grant funds will be distributed to eligible applicants for impacts related to COVID-19 that have been incurred between March 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020, such as:
- Higher operating costs related to cleaning and social distancing requirements, including costs related to outside contracting associated with managing social distancing, limited occupancy, and cleaning;
- Infrastructure improvements including renovation, new construction, or adaptive reuse directly related to COVID-19;
- Equipment purchases that improve the availability of quality fresh food, such as additional refrigeration to manage volume, or personal protective equipment such as plexiglass dividers;
- Inventory (higher cost of goods, higher transportation or delivery costs, or procuring Pennsylvania-grown produce, meat, and dairy products, or loss of product);
- Innovative food access technology such as mobile or pop-up markets, or mobile EBT reader technology;
- Costs to expand access to Pennsylvania grown or processed produce, dairy and meat products or provide stable market access for Pennsylvania farmers that have lost or limited markets; and
- Other one-time or increased expenses incurred related to COVID-19.