Renew Richmond: Changing the Landscape of Food Access

If you ever get the chance to visit Richmond, you will most likely spend some time in an area called Carytown. Strolling down West Cary Street you can linger at restaurants, and shop in one of the many locally owned establishments on the street. You will also see not one, not two, and not even three, but four grocery stores all within a few blocks of one another. There is certainly no shortage of access to fresh food in this area.

Other areas of Richmond aren’t as lucky. Venture over to the Southside or the East End, and you will find food deserts. A food desert, by definition, is a geographic area where there is little to no access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods. Not only is there access to healthy and fresh foods in Carytown, but also there is a residential population with the financial makeup to be able to afford to purchase these foods. This is not the case for the Southside. The residential population has a lower household income than that of those in Carytown, and unlike their neighbors to the West, they may have to walk miles to get to a grocery store where they can only afford to purchase processed foods. Unfortunately, with tight budgets the priority has to be on the number of calories in food, not necessarily the quality of those calories.

Renew Richmond is changing all of this though. Renew Richmond was founded in 2009 with the mission of empowering individuals to cultivate healthier lifestyles through the growth and production of food. Currently, Renew Richmond is operating four community programs – two at schools and two community gardens. At G.H. Reid Elementary School, Renew Richmond refurbished a 2,000 square foot hoop house, built a garden, and outdoor classroom. They also helped develop an agricultural education program for the 4th and 5th grade students where they learn about their health, maintaining gardens, and community involvement. The students also run a farm stand out of their elementary school, which you can learn more about at  
Renew Richmond recently just finished fundraising their first Kiva Zip loan. In only 19 days, 233 lenders from around the world supported this loan! The loan of $10,000 will be used to build two hoop houses to grow produce for commercial use. This commercial use will allow Renew Richmond to help employ residents of Richmond, sell fresh produce in Richmond, and accept SNAP benefits at their farm and farmers market.
You can visit Renew Richmond's Kiva Zip loan at: You can also buy fresh produce at their Jerusalem Connection Farmstand every Thursday 3:30-6:30 PM and Saturday 12:00-4:00 PM at 210 Giant Drive, Richmond, VA. 

About the author

Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa was born and raised in a small farm town in Connecticut, where she spent her childhood reading and spending time with her horse. She attended Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT where she double majored in International Business and Marketing, and has just finished her last semester. In 2011, she took a trip to Leon, Nicaragua to distribute microloans to a few small businesses. In preparation for the class, she read “Banker to the Poor” by Muhammad Yunus, it was an eye-opener for her that businesses and economic models could exist for a social cause and did not have to be about shareholder wealth. Alyssa started focusing more on social businesses, and through her position as the President of the International Business Society was able to bring Muhammad Yunus to speak at her university. She is excited for her Kiva Zip fellowship and hopes that it will help her better understand the loan process and challenges small businesses face in the United States. After her fellowship, she wants to work with small farmers helping them gain access to capital and fight harmful agricultural policies. In 2-3 years, she intends to go back to school for a Masters in Public Policy.