September 1, 2021

The Conservation Fund Disburses More Than $1M In COVID-19 Rapid Relief Grants To Support Rural Food Security

DURHAM, N.C. — The Conservation Fund is announcing the allocation of 90 COVID-19 relief grants through its Resourceful Communities program. Grants totaling $1,375,000 were awarded to support a range of COVID-19 relief activities across North Carolina, with a primary focus on locally sourced, emergency food relief in rural communities.

A $1,975,000 grant from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation made this work possible, which also included $525,000 awarded to eight regional food hubs ($75,000 each) that participate in the NC Food Hub Collaborative. This is the second partnership between the Blue Cross NC Foundation and The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program focused on COVID-19 relief and recovery since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

“Resourceful Communities has decades of experience working with rural communities to meet the needs of residents. By engaging them as a re-granting partner, we were able to leverage their extensive, diverse network of small grassroots organizations to get funding to the areas of North Carolina that need it most,” said Merry Davis, the Director of Healthy Food for Blue Cross NC Foundation.

“Rural communities across North Carolina continue to face significant challenges, and with Blue Cross NC Foundation’s partnership, resilient rural food economies are supporting small farmers and businesses, and ensuring that healthy, local food reaches those who need it most. We’re also inspired by the work of hundreds of community groups that continue to step up and step in for their communities,” said Kathleen Marks, Director of Program Strategy for Resourceful Communities.

Nearly 300 community- and faith-based organizations applied for funding, with roughly 90 percent of applicants requesting funds for food and food-related expenses, including staff support, transportation, distribution supplies, and cold storage. Of the 90 awardees selected, 79 percent were Black, Latino, American Indian and other people of color-led organizations, aligning with Resourceful Communities’ intention to invest in a majority of people of color-led organizations as part of this initiative.

Geographic diversity was also an important consideration, with awardees spanning the breadth of the state. This includes Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Bertie County and TRACTOR Food and Farms in Yancey County. Both organizations support local farms and food insecure families.

“We are so appreciative of this grant,” said Deborah Freeman, Director of Good Shepherd Food Pantry. “It will be a tremendous help in our mission to serve food to insecure families in Bertie County. The funds will be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and to purchase commercial refrigeration. It will help support the farmers, bring more produce to Bertie families, and provide additional commercial refrigeration to extend the shelf life needed to distribute the produce in a timely manner.”

Dru Zucchino, Director of TRACTOR said: “This support provided an opportunity to expand our partnerships and services across Western North Carolina, increasing access to community-grown foods to relief agencies and over 11,000 food insecure individuals. We are grateful to Resourceful Communities for acknowledging the complexities of a rural food system, allowing our organization the flexibility to keep the agricultural dollar circulating in our mountain communities. We can safely say, with this COVID-19 funding alone, we have secured the future of several small family farms and provided at least 40 tons of fresh, nutritious food to folks who lack access.”

See the full list of grant awardees here.

The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program has worked since 1991 with economically and socially distressed rural communities to increase capacity to achieve locally-driven priorities that advance environmental stewardship, social justice, and community economic development. This round of grants builds off the organization’s initial COVID-19 response in 2020, which supported relief efforts across rural North Carolina early in the pandemic.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land.

Monica McCann | The Conservation Fund | 919-612-7110 |