Healthy Food Financing Initiative
Increasing healthy food access for kids and families through community investments
More than 23 million Americans live in a food desert—an area that lacks grocery stores, supermarkets, or farmers markets—circumstances which make it harder for people to obtain fresh, affordable foods. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is a public-private partnership that provides grants and loans to finance the construction and development of grocery stores and other healthy food retailers in these underserved areas. HFFI is jointly administered at the federal level by USDA, HHS, and the Treasury Department. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized $125 million for HFFI and permanently established the program under USDA. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized HFFI and expands the definition of eligible HFFI investments beyond retail stores to “food enterprises” that can broaden investments in particularly underserved or food insecure communities.
Low-income urban and rural communities tend to have both poor access to healthy food and disproportionately higher rates of adult and childhood obesity and related diseases; some studies have shown an association between greater supermarket availability and lower prevalence of obesity. Since 2011, more than $220 million in federal funding has been distributed through HFFI. Between 2011 and 2015, HFFI funding helped support or develop nearly 1,000 grocery stores nationwide.
Strong policies can help children and families eat healthier foods and be active. RWJF offers specific policy recommendations to help ensure more children in the United States have consistent access to healthy foods from the earliest days of life, in order to help them grow up at a healthy weight.
Featured Studies and Resources
Pennsylvania HFFI Project Spurs National Model
The national HFFI is modeled on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative which leveraged $30 million in state grants into $190 million in total investments. The program financed 88 projects that created or retained more than 5,000 jobs.
Baltimore Grocery Store = Local Community Anchor
With help from an HFFI award, a 68,000 square foot ShopRite supermarket was built in Howard Park, a West Baltimore neighborhood that had been without a grocery store for more than a decade. The new store created 250 jobs for local residents and includes an on-site health clinic. The supermarket participates in SNAP and WIC and carries a variety ethnic products that cater to the diverse preferences of its community.
California Establishes Cooperative, Generates Revenue
Mandela Foods Cooperative, an HFFI grantee, established its first grocery co-op in Oakland, California. From 2013-2016, it distributed more than 650,000 pounds of fresh produce, nearly half of which came from small family farms within 200 miles of Oakland. As a result, the co-op helped keep farmers increase their income by more than $300,000, and it has generated more than $5.5 million in new revenue.
6.5 million children live in a food desert.
HFFI’s public-private partnership model has leveraged $220 million in federal funding into an estimated $1 billion in additional private investments, resources, loans and tax incentives.
37 states have used public HFFI funding to bring more grocery stores and healthy food retailers to their neighborhoods and alleviate food deserts.