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Sustainable Communities Thought Leadership

Reinvestment Fund Awards $22.6 Million to Improve Healthy Food Access in Underserved Communities

Reinvestment Fund recently announced $22.6 million in financial assistance awards to 134 projects through the 2021 round of America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides one-time catalytic investments in projects that will improve access to fresh, healthy food by creating and expanding fresh food retail and food enterprises.

The 2021 round is the largest since the program launched in 2018. The 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) originally made $4 million available through the program. The pool was expanded to $22.6 million by the USDA, as a result of the $155 million in additional resources for the HFFI program announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in early June under the USDA’s framework for transforming the food system. With this investment, the HFFI program will work with stakeholders toward realizing the expanded vision for the program that begins to address the complexity of food access in communities across America.

“The Biden-Harris Administration and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to creating local and regional food systems that benefit all Americans, from farmers and ranchers to small businesses and families who currently have to travel a long way from home to find fresh, healthy food,” said USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “USDA is proud to partner with Reinvestment Fund to ensure that these resources reach the communities where they are needed most, so people can find nutritious food options wherever they live.”

As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administers the HFFI program on behalf of USDA. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans.

“The legacy of racist policies like redlining and the resulting disinvestment continue to harm communities in so many ways, including through the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said 

Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “We are honored to work with the USDA to address some of these historical injustices through the HFFI program by investing in food systems assets that not only increase food access in underserved communities but improve health, strengthen local economies, grow wealth and quality jobs, and develop essential community anchors.” 

Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects and food enterprises seeking financial assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to operating in underserved areas. The program received 566 Letter of Interest submissions to the RFA in December 2021. Based on eligibility, 359 applicants were invited to submit full applications in January 2022, with 294 final applications received by the deadline in March 2022. 

Awardee projects are located 46 states, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Of the 134 grant awardees, 45% serve rural communities and 81% are owned or led by people of color, women, and/or native people. Of the awardees, 69% are grocery retail projects. Another 31% of awardees offer alternative retail models including mobile markets, CSAs or food boxes. 

Awardees include four projects in Georgia:

  • Atlanta Harvest, an urban farm and retail market serving the greater Atlanta region. Located in Ellenwood, Clayton County, Atlanta Harvest plans to use its HFFI grant to support the Bring Farms Back project, to build a brick-and-mortar retail food store, and expand mobile delivery of a variety of fresh and affordable food. 
  • Clinch Memorial Hospital (CMH) is a 25-bed critical access hospital serving rural southeast Georgia. To overcome barriers to healthy eating and increase access to fresh produce in pockets of extreme poverty countywide, CMH will partner with Retaaza on an innovative model to connect residents experiencing hunger and food insecurity to local surplus produce that would otherwise be wasted. HFFI funds will help support the launch of a mobile market that will sell “just in time” staple and perishable food to underserved rural areas. 
  • UGROW, Inc is a non-profit organization that connects people to food and empowers them to live healthy lives. UGROW will build a Food Innovation Hub to increase access to fresh local food, facilitate food-centered education programs, and become a catalyst for innovative entrepreneurship opportunities for the Columbus community, especially the underserved as an expansion of UGROW’s current work. An HFFI grant will support part of the overall construction. 
  • West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative (WGFC) is a 50+ year old agricultural co-op in West Georgia that has traditionally consisted of Black farmers. WGFC members work to build opportunities through local food systems and wealth through cooperative economics. HFFI funds will help expand WGFC’s current operations through the construction of a new co-op grocery store and commercial kitchen in an underserved area of Troup County. It will also support upgrades to WGFC’s existing food hub. 

The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises that aimed to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain.  The program assists a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets. To learn about the HFFI program and see a full list of awardees, please visit www.investinginfood.com.


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