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Mayor Bowser Launches the Next Round of the Food Access Fund

Monday, December 6, 2021

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development launched the application process for the next round of the $58 million Food Access Fund in which will award at least $7 million in grants to create more food access points. Simultaneously, the Mayor and the DC Office of Planning released The Road Ahead: 2021 Update on Food Access & Food Security in the District of Columbia, a report that details the state of food security and food access in the District, providing updates on data and key recommendations to the 2020 report.

“The Food Access Fund is changing the way we bring food options to residents and neighborhoods that need them,” said Mayor Bowser. “With the last round, we were able to support eight local businesses so that they can open or expand in Wards 7 and 8. These are businesses that we are proud to support and that are proud to serve DC. We are excited about the potential of the next at least $7 million, and encourage our local businesses to think about how they can be part of the future of food access in DC.”

On a rolling basis, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) will again be soliciting applications for the Food Access Fund (FAF) Grant program. The purpose of the FAF is to increase equitable access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food, as well as increase access to additional food options by securing grocery stores, restaurants, fast-casual restaurants, and other food access points for areas with low food access.

As the District advances an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency, the overall food insecurity rate for the District in 2021 is 11%, which is a near return to the pre-COVID-19 food insecurity rate of 10.6% in 2019. However, this generalized data hides the continued elevated needs of Black and Latino households, children, and seniors, which all remain at higher risk of food insecurity than the general District population. The persistently elevated levels of food insecurity – defined by the USDA as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life – among these populations reflects the systemic challenges of the racial wealth gap, high costs of living, and historic disinvestments in communities of color which require increased strategic investment and support.

“Food insecurity continues to remain a critical priority even after the public health emergency has begun to subside,” said Ona Balkus, Food Policy Director at the DC Office of Planning. “As we continue to implement our strategic emergency response, the District is focused on equitable solutions that bring new investments to communities of color to support long-term sustained change for residents.”

To that end, Mayor Bowser recently announced a $58 million investment to increase food access in areas where structural racism and disinvestment have led to low food access in the District. Part of these funds were allocated for the Food Access Fund to provide capital investments to increase equitable access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food by closing the grocery gap and strengthening grocery access programs. In the first round of applicants, nearly $9 million were distributed; $7 million will be disbursed in this second phase. The $58 million in funding also includes $4 million for the Nourish DC Fund, which supports small food businesses through grants, loans, and technical assistance.

“Mayor Bowser created the $58M Food Access Fund to catalyze the eradication of food deserts. With one successful round that awarded nearly $9 million to create 9 new food access points in Wards 7 and 8 by taking concepts that have worked in the west part of the District and drawing them east,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. “This first round of our 2022 Food Access Fund effort will create even more food access points for the residents who have demanded it for far too long.”

The FAF Grant will support qualified businesses and entrepreneurs with capital for tenant improvements related to opening a new concept or the expansion of existing operations into a new location, including build-out of new or vacant space, and the purchase of eligible equipment, and rent abatement. DMPED will award up to a maximum of $7,000,000 in grants to the successful grantees under this application round.

The first round of the FAF Grant supported nine new establishments in Ward 7 and Ward 8, including restaurants, a restaurant and kitchen incubator, and a fresh food market. This round of the FAF grant will compound on this work and support additional food options for areas of low food access. The Mayor is committed to addressing inequitable access to food options.

The District’s emergency food programs, created in response to increased food insecurity resulting from COVID-19, provided much-needed help to residents during the height of the public health emergency. For example, through the GetHelp Hotline, the District delivered nearly 12,000 grocery boxes to residents quarantined at home. And, through its Grocery Distribution Program, the District provided over 1,000,000 pounds of free groceries, primarily fresh produce, at 13 DC Public Schools locations.

To date, the Bowser Administration has implemented several of the recommendations in the 2020 report. The District has continued our emergency response efforts, increased investments for funding to Black- and Latino-led organizations, expanded investments in urban agriculture, and developed a comprehensive resiliency plan to prepare for future food and water emergencies. In addition, district agencies continue to work hard to ensure that all eligible residents are actively participating in the expanded federal nutrition assistance programs. The District has also adapted programs to ensure that school meals, senior meals, and groceries have continued to be available and accessible throughout the public health emergency.

For more information, specific eligibility requirements, and to apply for the FAF Grant, please visit dmped.dc.gov/page/food-access-fund. Questions regarding this opportunity should be directed to the Grants Team via email at [email protected].