A Healthy Roanoke Needs You

This is what success looks like: From January to April 2022, total sales at LEAP markets (our farmers markets, mobile market, Farm Share, and online marketplace) were up 46 percent over 2021.

There are many reasons for this. Our mobile market was on the road more days of the week, stopping in more communities than ever before. Our Grandin Village Farmers Market has become a beloved institution that people seek out, even in the cold, dark, and rain. We have an online marketplace now; that wasn't even a concept we were considering two short years ago. After early-COVID supply chain issues, many are choosing to buy local food to strengthen our food system and support local farmers.

But one central reason for the year-over-year rises are the incentive programs that make healthy food affordable for all customers. In early 2022, LEAP customers used SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal government's aid to the lowest wage earners) 117 percent more than in 2021. Customers participating in Virginia Fresh Match (VFM, also federal funding, distributed through a statewide network, that doubles the value of SNAP on purchases of fruits and vegetables) bumped sales at LEAP's markets 93 percent over VFM sales during the same time in 2021. These increases indicate that people who receive these incentives are hungry for healthy food. They are showing up to spend their SNAP dollars not at the chain grocery store but at LEAP's Mobile Market and West End Farmers Market, primarily.

Here's the dark cloud in the otherwise rosy picture. We have a static amount of federal funding. When we reach more people who want to buy healthy food with their SNAP benefits, we spend down that pot of money. The more success we have, the sooner we will run out.

So, while more days of the Mobile Market out in the community means more people in our city and region are eating more fresh produce, it also means we will not be able to continue to provide affordable fruits and vegetables in the future.

What can we do? We can apply for grants (and we do!). Grant-based funding is great and it is often not flexible -- grants are restricted to specific programs, types of expenses, and timelines.  We can reach out to businesses to sponsor us (see below!). It's one piece of the puzzle.

We can also ask you, our supporters, those who know best the good, hard work we are doing to nourish our community, to help us bridge the gap.

You have risen to the occasion before. In 2021, when we asked, with a similar need (sales were up 72% for the year in 2021 over 2020; SNAP use was up 145%) you blew us away with your generosity. In 2021, individuals making small, repeated donations raised $8,000 in a year. That's amazing! Every time someone clicked our Nourish  Your Neighbors button on a newsletter or in our online marketplace, they made local food available to someone who couldn't otherwise afford it.

We know that 2022 is not 2021. We know that child tax credits have ended. That P-EBT (Pandemic-EBT, for families with children in schools) is gone. We know that expenses are rising across the board. We understand that some people who were able to give last year may not be in the same place this year. These words are not meant to make anyone feel guilt or regret.

They are simply to inform. We want you to know: When sales of local food jump year after year, that means our local farmers are increasing their hard-earned income. When local food sales climb that means the money spent stays in our neighborhoods, funding other small businesses and strengthening our community. And when people who have the hardest time accessing fruits and vegetables are able to afford it, our whole city becomes healthier.

If you were looking for a worthy cause to contribute to, we hope these numbers speak loud and clear. LEAP is a success story. And our continued success depends on you.

Go Back

Your support grows healthy communities