Access to healthy food is fundamental to community health and wealth equity. Food insecurity has one of the most extensive impacts on the health of individuals and families. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study showed that just over 700,000 people in Virginia, or 8.1%, were food insecure. Those rates only increase in areas of poverty, whether they be populated urban areas or deep rural communities. Food insecurity touches every part of the country.

Since 2013, Locus has administered The Virginia Fresh Food Loan Fund, a $10 million revolving loan fund for healthy food retail and local food businesses in underserved communities across Virginia. The fund is capitalized in part with federal grants from the CDFI Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Over the past ten years, Locus has deployed more than $40 million in capital to support a wide range of healthy food enterprises, including grocery stores, commercial kitchens, healthy food manufacturers and processors, farmers markets, and intermediaries.

One such intermediary is a small CDFI founded in 2018 in Charlottesville – Foodshed Capital. Foodshed Capital exists to build more equitable, regenerative foodsheds across the Mid-Atlantic. They prioritize farms using regenerative practices, fostering soil health and biodiversity, and producing nutrient-dense, culturally appropriate food for their foodsheds. Further, they equally prioritize racial equity in their lending, endeavoring to provide affordable, flexible capital to BIPOC farmers and food entrepreneurs. Locus assisted Foodshed Capital during its founding, providing an initial line of credit for working capital.

However, healthy food systems require more than capital to grow and succeed. As IFF highlights in their Continuum, CDFIs must operate across the community investment ecosystem to drive meaningful outcomes. Through collaborative work in their early days, both Locus and Foodshed Capital realized the need to think bigger. In 2020, the desire to do more led to a partnership with the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF), a statewide program under the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to provide catalytic grants to a wide range of healthy food retailers. Together, Foodshed Capital, Locus, and VFAIF coordinated with food system funders and partners to offer low-interest loans, grants, catalytic awards, and technical assistance to low-wealth food-based businesses across Virginia.

In 2024, our organizational commitments to sustainable food systems continue to grow. Since originating its first pair of loans in Virginia five years ago, Foodshed Capital has grown from Georgia to Vermont, originating 100+ loans for $2.7 million and supporting more than 12,000 acres of regenerative farming. This growth has enabled Foodshed Capital to seek a $500,000 guarantee from Locus’ Community Investment Guarantee Pool to further scale and unlock equitable capital and business resources for small farmers – particularly farmers of color – to survive and thrive. Meanwhile, Locus is joining a cohort of partners across five states (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) that have received $30 million in critical funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create the Southeast USDA Regional Food Business Center, the only such center that will be CDFI-led.

CDFIs like Foodshed Capital and Locus play a crucial role in growing resilient, healthy food systems. Through financing, technical assistance, and thought leadership, CDFIs can steward the physical and social landscapes in ways that transform communities, ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table.

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