The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), a statewide financing program, was designed to attract supermarkets and grocery stores to underserved urban and rural communities. The program, which began in 2004, ended six years later when all of its funds were deployed.
The objectives of the program were to:
- stimulate investment of private capital in low-wealth communities;
- remove financing obstacles and lower operating barriers for supermarkets in poor communities;
- reduce the high incidence of diet-related diseases by providing healthy food;
- create living wage jobs; and
- prepare and retain a qualified workforce.
Developed as a public-private partnership, FFFI served the financing needs of operators in communities where infrastructure costs and credit needs were not met by conventional financial institutions. The initiative used market analysis, leveraged capital, and public policy to stimulate supermarket development and increase the availability of fresh food in low-income neighborhoods.
FFFI was a partnership of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Reinvestment Fund, The Food Trust and the Urban Affairs Coalition. Reinvestment Fund was the administrator of the program.
The State seeded the program with a $30 million grant, which Reinvestment Fund leveraged with $145 million in additional investment to provide loans and grants for predevelopment, acquisition, equipment and construction costs, as well as for start-up costs such as employee recruitment and training.
FFFI attracted 206 applications from across Pennsylvania, with 88 projects financed as of June 2010. In total, more than $73.2 million in loans and $12.1 million in grants were approved. Projects approved for financing were expected to bring 5,023 jobs and 1.67 million square feet of commercial space.
FFFI was hailed for its flexibility and ability to serve a diverse constituency. Projects financed through FFFI ranged in size from large, full-service supermarkets in urban neighborhoods to small grocery stores in rural areas. To inform the program and any replication efforts, four evaluations are currently underway or have been completed for FFFI.
- Reinvestment Fund contracted with Econsult, an economic analysis consulting firm, to conduct an econometric analysis of supermarket impacts using an FFFI-funded store as one of the study subjects. The study examined the supermarket’s impacts on economic activity, employment, earnings, tax revenue and real estate values.
- The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund funded Reinvestment Fund to evaluate the efficiency and impact of FFFI. In this study, Reinvestment Fund examined the significant difference in operating costs of supermarkets in distressed and non-distressed areas, and evaluated the impact of FFFI financing on reducing or removing these higher costs. The study also evaluated subsidy programs designed to promote economic development and compared their effectiveness to FFFI. Read a summary of the study or the full study.
- Researchers from Penn State University, University of Michigan, University of London, and The Food Trust are in the midst of a multi-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The project compares consumption patterns and other health measures in a neighborhood surrounding a new grocery store versus a control population, to examine impacts on overweight and obesity levels.
- FFFI was selected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to undergo a program assessment. The goal of the assessment is to determine if the program has the components necessary to allow for a quantitative evaluation and to consider.