LEAP expands access to healthy food in the West End community

Funding from ARPA and VFAIF supports LEAP’s commitment to building a resilient food system in Roanoke.

The Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) is renovating a historic building in the West End neighborhood of Roanoke. When construction is complete in 2023, this building will house a food hub, food processing operations, community space, fresh food retail outlet, farmers market and offices.

At the start of Virginia Agriculture Week, a press conference will be held at 1027 Patterson Ave SW. On Monday, June 13, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Commissioner will visit the property to celebrate a $50,000 VDACS grant awarded to LEAP to support this project. LEAP Director of Programs, Kelly Key, and Vice Chair of the Board, Brent Cochran, will discuss the project and answer questions. The site plans will be available for consultation.

This project allows LEAP to invest more deeply in a community where it has long-established roots and to dramatically increase its efforts to bring more healthy, local food to everyone. On this property, LEAP will add retail space and consolidate operations from its three current locations: the food hub, where regional farmers deliver produce for the mobile market, farm share and online market. from LEAP, currently at Heritage Point in northeast Roanoke; the West End Farmers Market, located behind the Patterson Avenue branch of Freedom First Credit Union; and LEAP’s administrative offices are now housed in Villa Heights, a restored historic property near the Melrose neighborhood of Roanoke.

The LEAP Kitchen will remain at 1210 Patterson Ave. The Grandin Village Farmers Market, operated by LEAP, will continue to operate from the parking lot behind the Roanoke Co+op on Saturday mornings. The move does not affect the location of LEAP’s four community gardens.

In November 2021, LEAP received a $2.5 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant from the City of Roanoke which provides funding to expand and improve Roanoke’s local food system. In June 2022, LEAP received a Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) grant of $50,000 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Together, these and other funding sources allow LEAP to more efficiently purchase, store, process and distribute locally grown food to Roanoke residents. Components of the 1027 Patterson property include:

  • Loading dock and aggregation space for locally grown and raised produce, meat, dairy and grains
  • Cold room for perishable products
  • Dry storage of locally produced food products
  • Equipment to process seasonal fruits and vegetables for year-round consumption (freezing, drying)
  • A small retail space with a focus on fruits and vegetables
  • Community meeting space
  • LEAP offices
  • West End Farmer’s Market Expansion
  • Home for LEAP’s mobile market and other delivery vehicles
  • Rooftop solar system and electric vehicle (EV) charging station

VFAIF funding supports community projects that increase equitable access to fruits and vegetables, including those grown in Virginia. VFAIF funding will be used to purchase coolers and freezers for retail space and commercial processing equipment to preserve local, in-season, state-of-the-art produce that will reduce food waste, increase availability throughout the year of locally grown food and will provide local frozen and dried produce. produce in the mobile market and in the West End retail store. Additionally, all VFAIF recipients, like all LEAP markets, offer nutritional incentives like Virginia Fresh Match (VFM).

VFM is a success story that started at the local level and continues to thrive with the support of local and regional partners. Since 2018, VFM has used federal grants through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support thousands of low-income families and hundreds of Virginia farmers. The concept is simple: when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients redeem their benefits at participating VFM outlets, their dollars are doubled toward fruit and vegetable purchases. This incentive directly supports Virginia agriculture – every SNAP and match dollar goes from a customer’s hand into a farmer’s pocket.

The retail space in the West End will add another location for people who participate in SNAP to take home additional fruit and vegetables. Existing VFM outlets in the Roanoke area include the Roanoke Co+op, Historic Roanoke Town Market, Grandin Village Farmers Market, West End Farmers Market, LEAP Mobile Market, Salem Farmers Market, Blacksburg Farmers Market, Floyd Farmers Market, Glade Road Growing, Feeding SW Virginia Mobile Marketplace, Rocky Mount Farmers Market, and more.

The project at 1027 Patterson will make locally grown fresh produce more visible, available and affordable to West End and Roanoke community members. LEAP has been part of the West End community since the West End Farmer Market started in 2010. Maureen McNamara Best shares that “after thirteen years of slow growth of LEAP backend programs and systems, it is amazing to build a facility of brick and mortar in the West End that is all about food, community and sustainability.

For questions regarding the Monday, June 13 event, please contact Laura Weatherford Burns at [email protected] or 540-989-1804.

About LEAP:

The Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) is a Roanoke-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Founded in 2009, LEAP’s mission is to create an equitable food and agriculture system that prioritizes health and abundance. LEAP programs include: two farmers markets, a mobile market, an online market, a farm share, a food center, a commercial kitchen, four community gardens and strong nutrition incentive programs. LEAP also works with community partners across the region on initiatives such as Farm to School and food system development. LEAP is the lead organization for Virginia Fresh Match, a statewide network of markets and outlets that makes fruits and vegetables more affordable for SNAP participants.

For more information, visit www.leapforlocalfood.org, www.virginiafreshmatch.organd https://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/marketing-food-access-investment-fund.shtml