The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that the 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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the individuals and businesses that stepped up to protect and provide for their communities over the past several months, by supplying critical goods and services,” said Sec. Davin. “Little is as life sustaining as providing access to fresh, healthy food, especially in food-insecure areas. This funding will help alleviate the financial burdens placed on Pennsylvania’s food system during the pandemic and will ensure continued access to nutritional foods as we work toward greater recovery.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (department) will accept applications until August 14, 2020. If you have any questions about the application process or need an application sent to you via mail, please email Michael Roth at email@example.com.
To apply for funding, the applicant must submit the on-line Electronic Single Application for Assistance located at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. In addition to the Electronic Single Application for Assistance, the applicant should provide the following items when applying for the grant. All items should be attached electronically to the ESA submission. Awarded grants are reimbursement grants, so applicants are responsible to spend all funds prior to submitting for reimbursement.
For full details on Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund eligibility, award amounts, additional prioritizations, and criteria visit agriculture.pa.gov/foodsecurity.
For information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit agriculture.pa.gov/COVID. For the most accurate, timely information related to Health in Pennsylvania, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.