NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Norfolk has created a program that aims to reduce food and health disparities between city residents.

The Norfolk Nutritional Equity Fund has been created with a combination of funds from the city, grants and philanthropic efforts — including the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which announced $150,000 earmarked specifically for a grocery store in the St. Paul’s area of the city.

The Pamunkey Tribe has proposed building a $500-million casino on land next to Harbor Park in Norfolk. An option to purchase agreement and development agreement were signed in January.

The St. Paul’s area recently lost its only grocery store, a Save-A-Lot. Now the area is defined as a food desert, meaning residents don’t have easy access to fresh, nutritious items.

The new fund will:

  • Provide grant incentives for grocery store operators to build stores in areas of Norfolk that are considered food deserts.
  • Give training and incentives to people who may be interested in working in the grocery store industry
  • Give grants to smaller stores to help with purchasing equipment or renovations that will help the store sell fresh produce.
  • Give grants to organizations or people so they can establish mobile markets, farm stands or co-ops that will bring easy access to fresh produce and pantry stables to the elderly and mobility-challenged.

“Everyone should have consistent access to healthy food. We recognize that the current economic crisis is increasing hunger in our communities, and too many of our residents are grappling with the instability and unpredictability that is accompanied by food insecurity. We are building partnerships to confront root causes of food insecurity in Norfolk and are very grateful for the leadership of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in supporting this effort,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander.

“The goal of this fund is to bring money and capital to address the food insecurity that exists across our city. This effort is not just about opening grocery stores in food deserts but is a holistic effort to combat nutritional and health disparities through creative solutions,” said Dr. Chip Filer, Norfolk City Manager.

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