Philadelphia, August 27, 2019—Reinvestment Fund today announced $1.8 million in financial and technical assistance awards to 23 projects through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) inaugural grants program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Ten projects received a total of $1.4 million in financial assistance and another 13 projects received a total of $400,000 in technical assistance awards.
Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects seeking financial and technical assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas. More than 240 applicants from 46 states, territories and the District of Columbia applied for financial assistance grants with a total request of $42.5 million.
“USDA is proud to partner with the Reinvestment Fund to help ensure that rural Americans have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food,” said Bette Brand, Administrator of USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. “I was excited to see that seven of the 10 financial assistance projects funded through this initiative will serve rural communities.”
As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administered this inaugural funding round for healthy food retail projects to expand access to healthy foods in underserved rural and urban areas, to create and preserve quality jobs, and to revitalize low-income communities.
“Access to healthy food is about more than making sure all Americans have easy access to nutritious, affordable food—it is also about strengthening local economies and community infrastructure,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “The response to this funding opportunity is indicative of the immense need and the innovative approaches communities are undertaking to support equitable access to fresh, healthy food for everyone.”
Of the 10 financial assistance awardees, seven serve rural communities and eight are minority-, women- and/or tribal-owned businesses or organizations. Six of the grantees are also projects located in or that serve very low-income areas, defined as census tracts where the median income is not more than 50% of Area Median Income.
In addition to the 10 projects receiving financial assistance in the form of direct grants, 13 projects were selected to receive technical assistance. Technical assistance from HFFI is designed to support early stage work where resources would help clarify and support the development of a healthy food access project in an underserved area. Technical assistance recipients will receive assistance in areas including market research, feasibility analysis, assessing a project’s impacts and its business case, and building human or systems capacity to successfully increase access to healthy food.
Financial assistance grant recipients comprise a broad range of healthy food retail projects that need support with a variety of aspects of development, and expansion. Grantees include Rogers Vegetable Farm, which will establish a mobile market to bring fresh food to underserved areas of rural Lee and Sumter counties of South Carolina, and Buche Foods, which is reopening a closed supermarket on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A full list of awardees is available at www.investinginfood.com.
To be eligible for assistance, healthy food retail project applicants had to: 1) plan to expand or preserve the availability of staple and perishable foods in underserved areas with low and moderate-income populations; and 2) accept benefits under the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).
While new at USDA Rural Development, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have invested in healthy food projects through Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Development Corporations since 2010. To date, federal support has totaled $267 million in grants and has leveraged an estimated $1 billion in additional financing. It has also supported nearly 1,000 grocery and other healthy food retail projects in more than 35 states across the country, revitalizing economies, creating jobs, and improving health.
“Access to fresh healthy food is a significant issue in both rural and urban communities with each requiring creative, community-based solutions. It is so inspiring to see communities coming together to address food deserts across the country in so many creative ways and such validation of the need for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative that there were so many requests for this funding.”
Kathlyn Terry Baker, Executive Director, Appalachian Sustainable Development
“The applicants for the HFFI projects demonstrated an incredible range of innovative strategies to bring healthy food access to both urban neighborhoods and rural communities. Through their proposals, the applicants showed a persistent and deep commitment to improve the health of their communities through greater access to healthful foods. I am very excited to watch the progress of these HFFI awardees.”
David E. Procter, Ph.D., Professor, Communication Studies, Director, Center for Engagement and Community Development, Kansas State University
“The investment and technical support provided through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative are critical for rebuilding community access to culturally appropriate healthy foods while at the same time strengthening local economies and community infrastructure. The technical assistance provided to the grantees will make a world of difference towards these outcomes.”
John Fisk, Strategy and Partnerships Director, Wallace Center at Winrock International
“Locally owned, independent grocers are the bedrock of their communities, spurring economic growth and providing access to healthy and affordable food choices. As we know through research done by USDA Economic Research Service, independent grocers often help to ensure food access for residents in low-income and rural areas. The National Grocers Association has long supported strong private-public partnerships to address the barriers of entry faced by grocers in underserved communities and efforts to find solutions for the lack of food access in rural and urban areas.”
Greg Ferrara, Executive Vice President, National Grocers Association
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in underserved communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in underserved neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.