Healthy Food Financing Funds

National, state, and local financing programs and initiatives are being established across the country for the purpose of improving the quality and availability of fresh and healthier foods in low-income communities and communities of color.

The federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) supports projects that increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities that currently lack these options. Through programs at the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Treasury’s CDFI Fund, HFFI has been expanding the availability of nutritious food, including developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets selling healthy food. You can find more information about HFFI below and in Policy Efforts and Impacts.

In addition, dozens of state and local initiatives, with varying eligibility requirements, offer financing and other incentives to encourage the development, expansion, and preservation of healthy food businesses. If your project is located in a community that has one of these state or local initiatives, you may have a one-stop-shop for the financial resources you need to make your project a reality. Examples of state and local healthy food financing initiatives and incentive programs are provided below and in Policy Efforts and Impacts.

CDFIs and Healthy Food Access

CDFIs are mission-driven organizations that work in economically distressed communities, which are often underserved by conventional financial institutions and capital markets. CDFIs deliver a unique range of financial products and services. Many offer lower interest rates and more flexible loan terms than traditional banks. CDFIs have taken the lead across the country in providing financing for healthy food retail and food system development.  In many communities, CDFIs are also using New Markets Tax Credits to finance healthy food access projects. To learn more about CDFIs and healthy food access, read Understanding the Role of Community Development Finance in Improving Access to Healthy Food.

Looking for a healthy food access grant, loan, or incentive for your project? Check out Available Funding.

Federal Initiatives

HFFI represents the federal government’s first coordinated effort to expand access to healthy, fresh food in underserved communities. Since 2009, the USDA, HHS, and the CDFI Fund have been collaborating to provide project funding and/or capacity development to organizations that invest in businesses working to increase and preserve healthy food options in low-income communities. 
 

Through existing programs, HFFI has been expanding the availability of nutritious food, including developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets selling healthy food. In addition, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the Farm Bill) authorized the USDA to select a National Fund Manager to administer future HFFI funding.
 

More than 60 CDFIs and CDCs have been awarded nearly $109 million in federal funds to introduce or expand healthy food options in their communities:
 

In addition to HFFI, other federal grant, loan, and incentive programs can be used to improve healthy food access and revitalize neighborhoods through developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, farmers markets, and other healthy food retailers. Visit the Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food portal for more information on these resources.

State & Local Initiatives

Many state and local financing programs provide funding and technical assistance to support grocery stores and other healthy food projects serving their communities. Several are modeled on the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative and are seeded with funding from a state or local government, or, in some instances, a private foundation. Many state and local initiatives have been awarded federal HFFI grants. State and local initiatives often involve collaborations among government, community-based organizations, retail industry associations, nonprofits, investors, private foundations, and CDFIs.
 

Here are some examples of financing programs created for the express purpose of improving healthy food access in underserved areas.
 

To learn more about launching and managing a financing program in your community, check out:

 

Incentive Programs

Beyond grants and loans, a variety of incentives are used to encourage the creation of healthy food projects in underserved neighborhoods. Incentives can take a variety of forms, all aiming to reduce the cost of a project. They may include tax breaks, zoning bonuses, or expedited approval processes. For example, Michigan allows municipalities to provide property tax abatements to property owners who rehabilitate commercial property to accommodate grocery stores. To qualify, the establishment must be located in an underserved rural area and offer for sale fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat and poultry products meeting certain standards.


Additional examples of incentives crafted to lower the barriers to opening new or expanding healthy food retail businesses include:
 

  • DC Supermarket Tax Exemption Act and Healthy Food Retail Program: DC designates a “grocery ambassador” to help grocers navigate the bureaucratic hurdles of opening new stores. DC also exempts eligible grocery store developments from paying the business license fee, offers a fast-track permitting and review process, assigns density bonuses and other zoning flexibility, and works with grocers to lower their energy-related operating costs.
  • New York City FRESH Program: New York City offers zoning incentives for real estate developments that incorporate healthy food, and creates a single point of access for supermarket operators to interface with city government.
  • San Francisco Designates Public Land for Farmers’ Markets:  San Francisco permits farmers’ markets to locate on park property as long as they accept government food assistance vouchers and coupons.
  • New York State: The state offers programs to help improve the energy efficiency of new and existing supermarkets.