Sen. Fowler announces new grant money now available for local grocers

Grocers across the state can now apply for grant funding following the Pritzker Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announcement of $3.5 million in new available grant funds as a part of the Illinois Grocery Initiative Equipment Upgrades Program.

“A lot of these little grocery stores, their equipment like coolers and freezers are 60 years old. Their energy bills are through the roof,” Fowler said. “We will see how this unfolds, and then there will be another phase. I have a county in my district, Gallatin County, and there’s not one single grocery store. A lot of these individuals have to go across state lines to buy their groceries.”

The Equipment Upgrades Program is the first program rolled out as part of the Illinois Grocery Initiative’s multi-pronged efforts to combat food insecurity by supporting local grocers and combatting food deserts. Additional funding opportunities for new municipal and independent grocery stores will be announced to the public soon.

With rising energy costs, outdated equipment presents a major expense for small community grocers. Under the Equipment Upgrades Program, eligible grocers may be eligible to receive grants for the following equipment upgrades:

  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment
  • Refrigeration units and freezers
  • Lighting systems
  • Other systems providing significant energy savings

“It’s going to be interesting to see who, how and why some grocers are awarded and what that vetting process is going to be, $3.5 million is a lot of money, but statewide … it’s not,” said Fowler. “When you spread $3.5 million out throughout the state of Illinois, we’ll see how impactful it is.”

Qualified applicants can apply for grants between $25,000 to $250,000, with a 1:3 match required. Applications for this round of grants will be accepted until March 25, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website.

To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will be holding a webinar at 10 a.m. on January 31 and a webinar at 2 p.m. on February 8. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to for application assistance.

Dale Fowler

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