Also by Reinvestment Fund

Food Access and Economic Opportunity: The Role of CDFIs

Blog post by TRF CEO Don Hinkle-Brown on

In many inner-city communities, finding stores that offer quality fresh foods at competitive prices can be difficult. In such areas, residents spend valuable time and money buying groceries outside of their neighborhoods or relying on smaller, more expensive nearby stores often with a limited selection of fresh foods. Bringing healthy food retail to such communities can have benefits that extend beyond meeting local demand for affordable, nutritious foods. Supermarkets can benefit neighborhood health, provide new job opportunities and pave the way for future community investment.

All across America, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), are at the forefront of this effort, connecting with local food entrepreneurs to finance access to fresh foods. The strategies in each locale vary, but the tools and the mission motivations are the same.

Meet Pat Burns, Don Miguel and Chris Krehmeyer. They are the operators and organizers of grocery stores. Their stories capture the critical needs of neighborhoods lacking healthy food retailers and the significant economic benefits that food stores can bring to communities. However, they could not do this work alone. CDFIs are an essential part of Pat’s, Don’s and Chris’s stories. Together, we are tackling head-on the issue of equitable access to healthy food.

Pat Burns, Operator of The Fresh Grocer, Philadelphia

Pat Burns, who operates The Fresh Grocer in both urban and suburban Philadelphia, faces start-up costs that are significantly higher in the city. In deciding where to open a new grocery store, Mr. Burns considers where he can tap into an unmet demand for quality, affordable food. His stores at Philadelphia’s Progress Plaza and Olney neighborhood, both financed by TRF, have been centers of neighborhood revitalization. Along with affordable food come job opportunities for nearby residents, the majority of whom live in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods.

Don Miguel Gonzalez, Operator of Northgate Gonzalez Markets, Inglewood

For residents of Inglewood, Don Miguel Gonzalez’s Northgate Gonzalez Markets is providing access to healthy foods and new, local employment opportunities. California FreshWorks Fund, managed by NCB Capital Impact, provided financing for the store, which employs over 100 people and is helping to improve community health and well-being. Northgate Gonzalez Markets provides shoppers with guides to healthy food alternatives, offers free health screenings, and hosts healthy food demos.

Chris Krehmeyer, Executive Director of Beyond Housing, St. Louis

Mayor Mary Carter never had a grocery store in her city of Pagedale, a North County suburb of St. Louis, during her entire 44 years living there. Beyond Housing, a nonprofit that provides support for low-income families, was able to assemble financing with the assistance of IFF to bring a new Save-A-Lot supermarket to Pagedale. The store not only provides fresh and affordable food, it also anchors a community plan, which includes new homes, free health activities, a full-service bank and new retail.

The stories of grocery stores in Philadelphia, Inglewood and Pagedale, may seem unique. But the remarkable transformations of neighborhoods, provided with healthy affordable food, job opportunities, increased tax revenue, and anchors for new development, are occurring all over the country. More and more private-public partnerships, supported by local and national policy, are being established to bring much-needed food retailers into underserved communities.

Through this portal, PolicyLink, The Food Trust and TRF are bringing together current information on different initiatives and resources available to keep building on this momentum to make food access equitable for all Americans. I encourage you to start exploring today and share any feedback or comments.