2017 HFFI Convening Reflections

On May 3 & 4, 2017, nearly 150 stakeholders gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Sixth Annual National Convening on Healthy Food Access to discuss the progress, impact, and future of the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). Since 2011, HFFI has transformed low-income rural, small town, and urban communities across the country through the financing of healthy food access projects –  ranging from farmers markets and food hubs, to mobile markets and full-service grocery stores.

Hosted by The Food Trust, PolicyLink and Reinvestment Fund, the annual gathering serves as the keystone event of national HFFI campaign efforts and unites stakeholders from 98 organizations across 21 states and the District of Columbia. Participants include grantees of the federal HFFI program, representatives of federal agencies, healthy food retailers, staff from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and advocates for healthy food financing from across the country.

Highlights from the day included:

  • Opening remarks delivered by Yael Lehmann, Executive Director at The Food Trust, who recounted HFFI’s origin in the 2004 Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. She called upon participants to passionately advocate for the program and its power to transform the health of communities during a time of transition in Washington, D.C. when Congressional leadership and a new administration are actively developing their agenda. Michael McAfee, President of PolicyLink, moderated a powerhouse plenary session that featured perspectives on HFFI from charitable foundations that have supported HFFI through investments in research, advocacy, implementation, and evaluation.
  • A variety of sessions over the course of the day that looked at different aspects of healthy food financing, including how to effectively communicate project outcomes and how to successfully create and implement healthy food marketing strategies. Several sessions addressed how HFFI interfaces with communities of color, explored the work in Indian Country and rural communities, and examined its ability to increase equity through cultivating diverse entrepreneurs across the food system.
  • A keynote address by U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans, a longtime champion of healthy food access efforts, who described his leadership in creating the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative during his time as a state legislator. Congressman Evans discussed how he was moved to create the program after learning about the overlap between poor health outcomes and grocery store access in his district in North Philadelphia. He conveyed his excitement about the opportunity to carry the mantle on this important issue at the federal level and called upon those in attendance to carry forward the message of the program to leadership on Capitol Hill.
  • Closing remarks by Reinvestment Fund President and CEO Don Hinkle-Brown, who shared the organization’s plans to realize their role as the newly selected National Fund Manager (NFM) for HFFI at USDA. He explained that as the NFM, Reinvestment Fund is committed to building a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans, especially those who have not benefited significantly from HFFI investments to date – including rural communities, food systems entrepreneurs and communities of color. The first day concluded with a bi-partisan panel featuring Congressional staffers sharing insights regarding the upcoming Farm Bill, the federal budget debate, and how both efforts may impact the future of HFFI.

On day two, grantees of the federal HFFI program and other stakeholders travelled to Capitol Hill to share stories about healthy food access projects and efforts with Congressional Members and staff. The annual HFFI Advocacy Day helps elected officials learn about the critical program and its impact in their respective states and districts.

Check out social media highlights from the Convening here, and see the links below to access key resources regarding HFFI and how to join efforts to support HFFI throughout the year.