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Nonprofit LEAP presented major changes and will now operate under one roof in Roanoke

LEAP, which stands for Local Environmental Agriculture Project, is a nonprofit organization based in Roanoke, Virginia, that supports farmers and fresh, local food for all. LEAP was founded in 2009 by a group of community members who wanted to create a more sustainable and equitable food system in the Roanoke Valley. Since then, LEAP has grown to offer a variety of programs and services that connect farmers, consumers, businesses, and institutions through local food.

LEAP’s mission is to nurture our food community by cultivating healthy food access, education, and engagement. LEAP believes that local food is not only good for our health, but also for our economy, environment, and culture. By supporting LEAP, you are supporting a nonprofit that makes a positive impact on our food system and our community.

LEAP, is working tirelessly to make food options more accessible and visible to the community. This noble cause has culminated in the creation of the LEAP Hub, a central location on Patterson Avenue where all their programs and efforts are concentrated.

LEAP’s mission is to support local farmers and ensure equitable access to food, and they have been doing so for almost a decade. However, for the first time in a decade, they are all under one roof. Executive director Maureen McNamara Best expressed that the new space is not only a hub for all their programs, but also a beacon to help make food more visible in the community.

Thanks to Roanoke City’s generous support, LEAP was awarded approximately $85,000 to install solar panels for the LEAP Hub. The panels were installed by Solshine Energy, and the company’s owner was ecstatic about the potential for solar power to make a significant impact for businesses, especially in terms of reducing energy costs

Installing the solar panel will have huge impact on LEAP’s future operations. According to Rick Brown, facilities like LEAP’s face higher energy costs due to increased lighting and energy usage, including a large walk-in cooler. However, Solshine Energy has estimated that LEAP will save approximately $4,000 each year with the installation of the panels.

Executive Director McNamara Best is thrilled with the potential for these savings to be put towards other programs. This includes moving more food through the mobile market, providing better support to their staff, and even finding new ways to support the community. The new community room and retail storefront being added to the Patterson Avenue building will also help more people have access to farm-fresh food, which is a crucial part of LEAP’s mission.

“This is about way more than just LEAP,” McNamara Best said. “How can we really have this broader conversation whether it’s about solar and renewable energy, or about how to support farmers or land access or food access? It’s a much bigger conversation.”

LEAP plans to open the retail store front by this fall. This will provide more opportunities for the community to access fresh and locally grown food, while also supporting local farmers and sustainable agricultural practices. LEAP’s dedication to creating equitable access to healthy food options is truly commendable, and the new store front will only further their impact in the community.

Donald Wolfe

Donald’s writings have appeared in HuffPost, Washington Examiner, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Virginian-Pilot, among other publications. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia. He is the Virginian Tribune's Publisher.

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