RAFI-USA Distributes Over $120,000 in Pandemic Assistance to North Carolina Farmers and Communities



COVID-19 Farmer Emergency Grant:
Lisa Misch, (919) 270-8100, [email protected] 

Come to the Table COVID-19 Emergency Grant:
Michelle Osborne, (919) 704-6920 [email protected]

Emergency small grants help farmers with household bills and connect church feeding programs with local food producers

[Pittsboro, NC, 7/10/2020] – Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) today announced completion of two rounds of small grants to communities severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Farmer Emergency Grant distributed $66,000 in small emergency grants to 132 North Carolina farmers whose businesses and households were affected by the crisis. The Come to the Table COVID-19 Emergency grant granted nearly $55,000 to 56 churches and community organizations in the state to purchase food from local farms and restaurants for use in emergency feeding programs.

RAFI-USA Executive Director Edna Rodriguez said, “North Carolina farmers have been hit hard by impacts of the pandemic, losing markets and long-time customers as businesses shut down – even while food insecurity has increased across the state. For farmers and non-farmers alike, sudden loss of income has meant choosing between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. RAFI-USA is proud to help farmers stay afloat in these hard times and to connect them with critical feeding programs to distribute fresh food to people most in need. We are grateful to our donors who have made it possible for us to meet the community’s emergency needs.” 

  • The COVID-19 Farmer Emergency Grant provided $500 grants to farmers whose businesses were shut down or otherwise disrupted by the pandemic to cover household expenses. Grants were given to farmers in 66 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Of the grantees, 25% are farmers of color; 38% are women; and 47% are beginning farmers, operating for less than 10 years. 
  • The Come to the Table COVID-19 Emergency Grants provided funds to churches and faith-based community non-profits that run emergency food programs to allow them to purchase food for distribution from local farmers and locally-owned restaurants. The programs distribute the food assistance as boxes of fresh produce or hot meals for pick up or delivery. Organizations that received the grant funds are 95% rural and their food programs largely serve children and seniors.

As the pandemic began, RAFI-USA began raising monies from generous individuals and institutional funders in order to be able to quickly re-grant funds to small farmers as disruptions in the food supply chain began.

A COVID-19 Farmer Emergency Grant recipient in Polk County, NC, said, “The grant means so much to me and my farm. For me, $500 is a make-it-or-break-it amount at the moment, and it could not have come at a better time. I am so humbled and grateful to receive the grant; it makes me still see hope for the future of my business.”

Reverend David Joyner, of Red Oak United Methodist Church, near Rocky Mount, was a recipient of a Come to the Table grant: “The pandemic has hampered face-to-face delivery for our food program, while increasing the need in our community. People who used to work at the local hotel and restaurants are now out of work. The Come to the Table COVID-19 Emergency grant helped us to purchase food from the farmers market to meet the increased need. And it multiplied: a church member heard about the grant and gave us a matching grant to get our garden going for the year.”

RAFI-USA has previously distributed emergency relief grants to farmers following natural disasters, most recently after Hurricane Florence in 2018. The organization is currently collaborating with Farm Aid to administer additional pandemic emergency support grants for farmers in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and the US Virgin Islands. RAFI-USA’s Come to the Table grant program is currently open for another round of funding for church-led food security projects through July 15 and will open an additional funding cycle later in the year.


About Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA)

The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA mission is to cultivate markets, policies, and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and incorporated in 1990.

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