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Richmond food bank, health-equity organizations receive city grants

Bags of food are packaged and sitting in carts, waiting to be picked up.
Waymakers Foundation — a culturally sensitive food bank that was founded in 2020 to provide food to families of immigrants who are in need — is among the recipients of Richmond Health Equity Fund grant money. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Six Richmond-area nonprofits received a total of $332,000 from the city’s Health Equity Fund this week to help bridge gaps in access to healthcare, food, jobs and more. 

It was the city’s second round of grants from the fund. Its first round totaled $230,000

Waymakers Foundation — a culturally sensitive food bank that was founded in 2020 to provide food to families of immigrants who are in need — received a $107,000 grant.

Executive Director Natasha Lemus said providing familiar foods helps Waymakers reach Latino people throughout Richmond and the surrounding counties. 

“We provide what is called a ‘canasta básica,’ which is basic grains, fresh produce and meat that families are accustomed to culturally,” Lemus told VPM News on Wednesday, after a press conference at the Richmond City Health District building. 

Waymakers Communications Director Jhanaly Perez said the group serves more than 2,000 families in the Richmond area. 

“It’s only two years, and we’re reaching a lot of families that need that help,” Perez said. 

Currently, the foundation only has one distribution center, in Chesterfield, which Lemus said is an obstacle for people without easy access to transportation. But with the city grant, she said they can restart a delivery service for 480 families for one year. 

“Now, Waymakers can come to their home,” Lemus said. 

Mayor Levar Stoney acknowledged during the Wednesday press conference that Richmond has racial disparities in health outcomes — for infant mortalities, overdose deaths, severe COVID-19 and more. He said the “solution to addressing the root of these health disparities lies in collaboration” among government, public health and community organizations.  

“We need strong partners,” said Stoney.  

Daily Planet Health Services received $25,000 from the city’s equity fund to aid in providing healthcare and COVID-19 vaccines for homeless people. Opportunity Alliance and Re-entry of Richmond, which provides transitional services for people with substance abuse disorder returning from incarceration, received $50,000.  

Birth in Color RVA, Healthy Heart Plus and Urban Baby Beginnings together received a total of $150,000 to provide direct doula services to Richmond residents. As a group, they’ll also use the funds to work toward building enough capacity to achieve state certification and Medicaid provider status. 

The Health Equity Fund was created by Richmond City Council with $5 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars. Grants will be distributed to local organizations through 2024 to “to address health disparities and racial injustice in our communities by funding innovative, community-led projects across our city,” according to RHHD’s website. 

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.