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SCLT granted $100K from UNFI Foundation to address food inequity

By  Providence Business News
PROVIDENCE – The Southside Community Land Trust’s quest to get more food out to the community received a significant financial boost, courtesy of United Natural Foods Inc.

The city-based nonprofit received a $100,000 grant Thursday from the Providence-based grocery wholesaler via the UNFI Foundation’s Food Equity Project Grant program. The foundation, which provides more than $1 million in grants annually, helps promote food equity to communities across the U.S. and Canada.

The grant that the land trust received is the first such grant offered to any nonprofit through the new Food Equity Project Grant program.

“It’s supporting farmers and growing food with organic practices, and creating better access to fresh healthy food,” UNFI Foundation Executive Director Alisha Real said. “We also support schools and childhoo

d nutritional education.”

The six-figure grant from UNFI Foundation will support the land trust’s farm-to-market center, located inside the organization’s new food hub building at 404 Broad St.which officially opened in JuneSouthside Community Land Trust Executive Director Margaret DeVos tells Providence Business News. DeVos also said UNFI has been a community partner with the land trust “for many years.” Real said the foundation wanted to go “really big” in a community that is important to UNFI, and wanted to make a large investment in addressing food equity.

“We were looking for an organization that is collaborating and working with the community to create those solutions,” Real said, noting the foundations received “a lot” of applications from various organizations. The land trust stood out to the foundation because the organization is working closely with community stakeholders to address food inequity in northern Rhode Island.

DeVos said the funds will be primarily used to get healthy food from the local farmers that the land trust works with into communities of color within the city, Central Falls and Pawtucket. The grant is sorely needed for the land trust. DeVos also said doing this work is now “even more expensive to do” as the organization’s costs for food and employee wages have increased.

“The gifts from the philanthropic community and government entities have recognized that our costs have gone up, and they’re responding in kind, makes a huge difference,” DeVos said. “We can’t do the work with the funds that we were doing with in 2019. UNFI stepping up this way is huge.”

With the grant support, moving forward, the land trust in the next year is projected to purchase $60,000 in food from local farmers, DeVos said. She also said another staff person has been hired by the land trust to help the organization obtain food, and move the food to those in need, as well as put more boots to the ground to get the food out to the community.

“The food doesn’t move itself, and we need hands to do that,” DeVos said. “And the food is there. The customer demand is there. The more people we have, the more shifts we can work, the more days we can deliver produce to restaurants, food pantries and other emergency services.”