Roanoke’s LEAP making changes to become more visible in community

Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 6:30 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke non-profit organization is working to make food options more visible to the community.

Local Environmental Agriculture Project, or LEAP, works to support local farmers and equitable access to food. Those efforts now take place in a single location on Patterson Avenue.

“The LEAP Hub is where we will have all of our programs; we haven’t all been under one roof for almost 10 years,” executive director Maureen McNamara Best said. “We wanted this space to also be a place to help make food more visible.”

To cut down on energy costs, Roanoke City awarded LEAP around $85,000 to install solar panels for the LEAP Hub. The owner of Solshine Energy, the company that installed the solar panels, explained how solar power can make a significant impact for businesses.

“Facilities like LEAP’s, it’s a commercial facility, so there’s higher energy costs, more lighting, they have a large walk-in cooler, and it’s fairly hig energy usage,” Rick Brown said.

Solshine Energy estimates LEAP will save about $4,000 a year with the panels. McNamara Best explained those savings can be put toward other programs.

“[It can be used for] moving more food though the mobile market, supporting staff in a different way and supporting the community in a different way,” McNamara Best said.

LEAP is also adding a community room and a retail store front to the building on Patterson Avenue so more people can have access to farm-fresh food.

“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 have the store front open by this fall.