In just five years, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) has distributed over 100 awards to support projects that are improving healthy food access in communities across the country. Throughout the year, the Healthy Food Access Portal, a partnership between PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and Reinvestment Fund, has shared success stories of healthy food access projects. To celebrate this important milestone, grantees were invited to share their own stories of their HFFI projects in action, through both photography and video.
PolicyLink, is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®.
The Food Trust, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit organization working to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.
Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution, catalyzes change in low-income neighborhoods by integrating data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life.
Visit the Healthy Food Access Portal at www.healthyfoodaccess.org
Healthy food retail projects, from grocery stores, to mobile markets, and food hubs, can help to improve not only the physical health, but also the economic health and well-being of both urban and rural communities, and historically disinvested regions. By financing healthy food-related projects, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) has emerged as an important tool to cultivate small business development, cooperatively and worker-owned enterprises, and innovative entrepreneurship platforms for residents - a critical strategy to building - and keeping - health and wealth in community.
"The project has become an important part of Portland's cultural and culinary tapestry and a model for national economic development that brings together different sectors to benefit a cultural community."
Nine years ago, Hacienda Community Development Corporation and a diverse group of community leaders came together to develop a vision for linking food, culture, art and community development in their diverse Portland community.
With the support of HFFI dollars, the vision of what would come to be known as Portland Mercado became a reality. The asset-building, commercial development project focused on Latino entrepreneurs and families who want to start food-related businesses to support their families and did so by creating an affordable retail public market and kitchen that now currently houses over 50 businesses. Approximately 80 percent of entrepreneurs are Latino immigrants and have grown businesses that offer fresh and prepared foods to the community.
In addition to the space itself, Hacienda offers a range of business development services - referrals, one-on-one coaching, access to capital and more - to build capacity among entrepreneurs. Celebrating its one-year anniversary in April 2016, Portland Mercado has created over 120 jobs and more than $2.5 million in sales for Mercado businesses, welcoming over 250,000 people to its Southeast Portland neighborhood.
Community Ventures has been dedicated to increasing the quality of life for Kentuckians through small-business expansion and microloan programs, and in 2015 created new services to specifically support food entrepreneurs that aimed to increase healthy food access and generate business in low-income communities.
HFFI funding was critical to Community Ventures' goal of expanding these services and supported the development of Chef Space, a 13,000-square-foot facility based in West Louisville's Russell neighborhood, a designated food desert.
Since opening in 2015, Chef Space has increased their membership by 15 percent, increased their revenue by 34 percent, created more than 20 jobs in the community, and continues to house more than 20 food entrepreneurs.
The facility offers first-stage food entrepreneurs space to rent and test their food concepts while minimizing risk involved with equipment costs and long-term leases. Additionally, it offers technical, marketing, and business planning assistance and in doing so, the space has symbolized an opportunity to not only increase healthy food options and offerings, but also to cultivate local business to grow and remain in the community and create jobs for residents.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. and its Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program "supports an economically just and sustainable food system that creates quality jobs for a diverse workforce and builds wealth and resilience in rural communities."
Connecting local farms and the local farm economy to food retailers, within the unique geographic, demographic, and economic landscape of rural Maine, was a priority focus area for CEI.
To date, Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) has deployed over $4 million in financing toward 24 projects that have created or retained 151 jobs and preserved 1,162 acres of farmland - including Island Employee Cooperative, a worker-owned cooperative in Stonington, Maine; and Tiller & Rye, a women-owned business located in a food desert community with a mission to provide locally sourced produce year-round.
"Through its work with LA Kitchen and other food and social impact innovators, L.A. Prep promises to have a significant impact in the community, launching new businesses, creating new jobs, and ensuring that healthy foods are available to those who need them most."
Capital Impact Partners has long worked to transform underserved communities into strong, vibrant places of opportunity for people at every stage of life. Capital Impact Partners leveraged HFFI funds to support a number of projects, including the renovation of a 56,000-square-foot industrial space in Los Angeles that would come to be home to L.A. Prep, an innovative social enterprise, business incubator, and production space.
By providing 54 affordable kitchen space and capacity-building services, L.A. Prep has helped to facilitate the growth of local food businesses and enterprises that increase access to healthy foods.
For many neighborhoods, a grocery store represents more than just a place to buy food. Community-centered grocery stores and other food retail businesses that offer healthy food options often serve as critical anchors of a community's social, economic, and cultural fabric. And in the case for many historically disinvested communities, the (re)opening of a grocery store can offer a resounding affirmation that they, residents and their communities, matter.
"This store makes me feel like we are not forgotten...a lot of stores don't care about the community; they just want to take from us. This store genuinely wants to give back." - Geraldine Foulks, a long-time customer of Imperial Fresh Market
With close to two million Michigan residents living in communities with limited access to healthy food, Capital Impact Partners has leveraged HFFI dollars to support critical community anchors across the state, including Imperial Fresh Market, the only full-service grocery store in northwest Detroit.
The store's expansion has created 50 new jobs, expanded healthy food options and health services to more than 16,000 residents, and helped to spur the region's economic development.
YES Housing, Inc. a nonprofit community development corporation (CDC) that aims to build within and revitalize communities in New Mexico, with a focus on affordable housing.
Recognizing grocery stores as an important community economic anchor, YES sought to meet both of its goals of prioritizing downtown Albuquerque as a prime site for economic revitalization and addressing residents' needs around accessing healthy food in this food desert neighborhood.
Once it opens, the Imperial Building is projected to create nearly 50 jobs, as well as support local business development.
After a study conducted by The Food Trust revealed that more than one million Ohio residents live in low-income areas with limited grocery store access, Finance Fund Capital Corporation, a nonprofit CDFI, led the movement toward action and helped to create the statewide Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program.
HFFO does so by offering flexible financing to healthy food retailers operating in low-income areas that face barriers to accessing traditional capital.
One project involved the transformation of an abandoned building into a community health hub that includes "Market on the Green," a new full-service new grocery store serving as its anchor, in addition to job training, nutrition and cooking classes, and an array of community services provided by local nonprofits.
In all, the project created or retained 13 jobs and supported 25 construction jobs in the community.
South Carolina Community Loan Fund, a nonprofit community development finance organization, works to advance equitable access to capital by providing loans, technical assistance, and advocacy to support affordable housing, healthy food, community facilities, and community business enterprises.
After hearing from community residents about the important link between affordable housing and access to a grocery store, South Carolina Community Loan Fund sought out HFFI funds to launch their healthy food program, which, since 2014, has supported 10 healthy food retail projects throughout the state.
Among them is the Save-a-Lot supermarket in Columbia, which not only helped to increase access to healthy, affordable food for local residents, but also created 25 new jobs in the community.
With nearly a third of Greater Cincinnati residents facing disproportionate rates of diet-related disease, financing projects that make healthy foods easily accessible for residents of low-income communities, typically under-served by traditional grocers, was a clear mission fit for Cincinnati Development Fund.
HFFI dollars were used to renovate the Community Market food pantry located in Lower Price Hill neighborhood, of Cincinnati's most distressed communities.
The market was transformed into a Client Choices Food Pantry and offers a more dignified shopping experience by enabling clients to "shop" for produce and perishables. Since the renovation, 594 families (a total of 2,112 individuals) have been served by the pantry and benefited from the increased fresh produce offering. The new space has also increased the number of families served per month, from 32 to 86.
As one of the original architects of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), the model for the federal HFFI program, Reinvestment Fund is a community development financial institution (CDFI) and national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization. Since FFFI launched in 2004, Reinvestment Fund has taken a comprehensive approach to improving access to healthy, fresh food in low-income communities through the innovative use of capital and information.
Reinvestment Fund's HFFI dollars have supported a number of food retail projects that have revitalized many communities, including the ShopRite at Springfield Avenue Marketplace in Newark, New Jersey; ShopRite of Howard Park in Baltimore, Maryland; and Fare & Square in Chester, Pennsylvania.
In Newark's University Heights neighborhood, a new supermarket marked the beginning of the transformation of a block vacant since the 1967 Newark riots, despite decades of efforts to revitalize the community.
Financing from Reinvestment Fund supported the development of the supermarket and construction of the $91 million mixed-use project.
To ensure that the store met the needs of its customers, owner and operator Neil Greenstein spent two years meeting with community members and planned to purchase produce from the Greater Newark Conservancy community garden across the street.
The new ShopRite brought in new jobs with the store committing to hire residents for many of its full- and part-time union jobs. Of 340 who were hired when the store opened, more than 60 percent are Newark residents.
Fare & Square supermarket was a welcome addition to the Chester community, offering convenient access to healthy food to residents who had lacked it for years. Operated by Philabundance, the Delaware Valley's largest nonprofit hunger-relief organization, Fare & Square offers an innovative business model for a community that has struggled with deep poverty issues-over 33 percent of its residents live in poverty.
The store operates as a nonprofit, allowing customers access to a full range of food staples for purchase at a low cost, along with a percentage off of future purchases for members who qualify. Reinvestment Fund provided a bridge loan and New Market Tax Credits financing to support this project.
For more than a decade, residents in Baltimore's Howard Park had no easy access to buy healthy, fresh food.
In 2014, the community finally welcomed a much-needed 68,000-square-foot supermarket, a joint venture by two seasoned ShopRite operators, Jeff Brown and the Klein family. Reinvestment Fund provided a low-cost pre-development loan through HFFI funds, and also partnered with City First Bank to provide New Markets Tax Credit financing towards the construction and permanent financing of the supermarket space.
The new store brought in 250 new full-time and part-time jobs, many of which were filled by local residents who received in-depth job training. The store also houses a health clinic and pharmacy along with community rooms.
Growing efforts are pointing to the challenges along the entire food system - from production, processing, to distribution - that deeply impact what many communities experience downstream in the form of inequitable access to quality, affordable, healthy food. Across the country, communities are tackling these supply chain issues head on through innovative strategies to better link regional producers to rural and urban retail markets that are in most need.
Colorado Enterprise Fund has aimed to accelerate community prosperity by financing and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, including businesses across the food system, that face barriers to securing funding through traditional banks.
Colorado Enterprise Fund's 2012 HFFI award was critical to launching the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F), which finances efforts that support the capital needs of food businesses, particularly small retail stores, food value chain enterprises, and start-up businesses that were not being met by other funding sources.
Through these programs, Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) has provided loans to expand or upgrade equipment for businesses such as Jumpin Good Goat Dairy, a small goat farmer and rural cheese producer; Aladdin Market, an African and Middle Eastern market located in a predominately immigrant community; Fort Market, a rural grocery store seeking to upgrade their healthy food inventory; and The Kitchen Pantry, an affordable rental commercial kitchen that supports local food entrepreneurs.
To date, CEF has deployed over $1.3 million in 32 loans to healthy food businesses in rural and urban Colorado, and in turn, helped to retain and create almost 90 jobs and bring healthy food to over 15 communities around the state.
"We believe in healthy, fresh produce for people of all incomes and feel the best way to reach them is by bringing the fresh items to their neighborhoods....Our strategically placed markets and successful marketing campaign have increased healthy food access in food deserts and for people of all incomes."
Serving both rural and urban communities surrounding San Antonio through asset building and job creation, BCL of Texas leveraged HFFI funds to create Salud de Paloma, an olive oil production social enterprise that sourced from local olive growers. Building off the success of this first enterprise, they co-founded O'liva, a farm-to-table restaurant, and Mercados de O'liva, a network of six farmers' markets located in food desert neighborhoods in San Antonio.
All Mercados de O'liva sites feature fresh, locally grown produce from 5-10 local farmers and vendors, are equipped to accept SNAP dollars, and feature nutrition education and cooking demonstration programming. With the support of a SNAP marketing grant, BCL of Texas also launched a bi-lingual, multi-media marketing campaign to promote the farmers' market across San Antonio's diverse communities.
Despite being surrounded by some of the best farmland in the world, many Illinois and Iowa communities still face barriers to accessing healthy food due to limited distribution infrastructure.
Quad Cities Food Hub works to address this issue by connecting regional farmers and producers to grocery stores and other business avenues to increase the amount of fresh, healthy local food offerings and keep the money in the community.
Since 1985, Boston Community Capital has invested over $1 billion to build healthy communities where low-income people live and work, creating access to affordable housing, good education, quality jobs, and other opportunities. Access to healthy foods is an integral part of this mission and a prerequisite for creating access to the opportunities needed for success. With the support of HFFI financing and other partners, Boston Community Capital was able to offer loans to develop Vicente's Tropical Grocery and Haley House's profit-sharing social enterprise, Dudley Dough.
Vicente's Tropical Grocery is a family-run grocery store in Brockton, Massachusetts, a former industrial city that has suffered significant disinvestment over the past half century. Boston Community Capital's loan to Vicente's supported the acquisition and predevelopment of the space, an abandoned strip mall that had sat empty for many years, and helped to foster an innovative partnership between the store and Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, which is located onsite to offer health service and education programming.
Haley House, located in Boston's South End, is a bakery café and social venture that creates space to enjoy fresh, healthy foods; participate in community conversation; and share appreciation for the arts in a culturally vibrant, historically low-income neighborhood. With a loan from Boston Community Capital, Haley House was able to build out a new commercial kitchen to house a catering program, job-training program, and launch Dudley Dough, a profit-sharing social enterprise that seeks to build economic inclusion by "serving up slices of economic justice" in its pizza parlor restaurant. Haley House and Dudley Dough use healthy foods and culinary training as pathways to wellness and employment for the community they serve, serving over 40,000 customers each year and creating employment opportunities for a vulnerable population.
HFFI funds supported Burten, Bell, Carr (BBC) Development, Inc. in expanding their multi-pronged efforts to improve health, wellness, and job opportunities for Cleveland residents, which include: Bridgeport Café, a health and wellness kitchen and community/meeting space; Bridgeport Mobile Market; and Harvest Preparation Center.
Cross-sector partnerships in housing, health, and education have helped to make the mobile project a success. Since 2004, over 4,000 residents have participated in health and wellness workshops, over 7,000 residents have purchased produce from the Bridgeport Mobile Market, and over 25,000 customers have been served at Bridgeport Café.