Building an Equitable Food System: America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative & other Tools for Increasing Food Access

By Olivia Chatman, Application Associate – Meals Initiatives, Reinvestment Fund

Throughout the country, the shameful reality of limited entry to healthy foods plagues historically marginalized communities. It is an issue that is rooted in discriminatory guidelines and disinvestment, and is reflected in the 27.6 million people today dwelling in destinations with inequitable and insufficient obtain to healthful food, according to our exploration on grocery store accessibility disparities in the contiguous United States. In cities like Atlanta, supermarket development has notoriously adopted styles of redlining, a discriminatory lending apply beginning in the 1930s, as merchants concentrated progress in rich, white communities though avoiding very low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

 Atlanta’s recently unveiled Refreshing Meals Accessibility Report confirmed that 25% of the city’s inhabitants lived extra than fifty percent a mile absent from contemporary food stuff as of 2020, an indicator of minimal meals entry according to the USDA’s Foods Exploration Atlas. Nationwide, there are significantly fewer chain supermarkets in predominantly low-money parts in comparison to middle-earnings parts. Similarly, there are around 50 percent as numerous chain supermarkets in predominantly Black neighborhoods in comparison to white neighborhoods. 

Addressing food obtain problems depends on partnerships and collaboration. Neighborhood arranging, advocating and engagement are all important items in the course of action of producing methods in the direction of food stuff justice and dismantling food method inequities. Reaching these plans requires methods, these as cash and specialized experience that can make sure the prolonged-phrase sustainability of group attempts. Regretably, these resources are often not quickly accessible in the underserved communities to which they would be most useful.  

As a countrywide neighborhood progress money establishment (CDFI) with workplaces in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, Reinvestment Fund performs in a wide range of sectors, which include foodstuff access, healthcare, schooling, and housing to deal with historic disinvestment and inequity owing to systemic and institutional racism. These historic inequities have prevented certain teams of people, specially persons of coloration, from accessing the assets required for community improvement and prosperity. In the meals area, Reinvestment Fund has pioneered tactics to offer personal debt, grants, and technical support, and analytical equipment to aid equitable food stuff programs with programs these types of as the Pennsylvania Contemporary Foods Financing Initiative that serves as a product for food stuff entry partnership and expenditure techniques. 

About the past 10 a long time, Reinvestment Fund has deployed around $253 million in funding in for wholesome meals retail and non-retail jobs nationally.  With a dozen experiments on matters connected to foods, like entry, financing mechanisms, system style and design, and meals devices, Reinvestment Fund has manufactured a entire body of investigate, which furthers collective understanding about possibilities and gaps. Reinvestment Fund has also convened peer CDFIs in food stuff systems lending for understanding and advocacy to constructing the discipline of knowledge and resources to devote in foodstuff systems projects and retail food stuff access. Fundamentally, transferring to the generation of a far more equitable food items procedure will require ongoing widespread collaboration concerning stakeholders and organizations, and the disbursement of information and tangible sources to marginalized communities as a result of arranged attempts.  

America’s Healthy Food items Funding Initiative

Funding foods shops and other food items process enterprises to produce, renovate, and increase in traditionally marginalized communities is one particular productive tactic to addressing inequities in the nation’s foods process. These investments assist merchants increase availability and access to foods in underserved communities when also contributing to nearby economies. America’s Balanced Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is a nationwide application that embraces this framework by supplying money, in the type of grant money and technological aid, to food retail corporations and non-retail food items enterprises in underserved regions. HFFI is a general public-personal partnership administered by Reinvestment Fund on behalf of the United States Office of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Enhancement to improve obtain to nutritious food stuff in underserved areas that was established by the 2014 Farm Monthly bill and reauthorized in 2018. Considering that then, the system has dispersed $4.8 million in focused aid to 43 meals access projects, together with grant awardees in 23 states and technical guidance recipients in 12 states. 

By means of HFFI, corporations and business people are receiving grant cash and technological guidance to tackle food accessibility gaps in their communities.  A diverse vary of foods retail and non-retail enterprises qualify for funding together with independent grocers, different designs – these as virtual and cell marketplaces – and other businesses searching for upfront funds to assistance task enhancement, renovation, or expansion. Grant resources can be utilized for a selection of challenge requires these kinds of as predevelopment necessities, 1-time charges, gentle-prices, building, equipment, supplies, or as part of an in general capital venture that includes financial debt and/or neighborhood financial enhancement incentives. Neighborhood to Ga, the Metropolis of Albany’s Department of Local community and Economic Growth is utilizing a $150,000 HFFI award to convey an inexpensive unbiased grocery shop with a small-price tag business enterprise model to the group. The South Albany neighborhood lost its grocery retailer in 2018 and is specified as a USDA Reduced Earnings Reduced Obtain place. The new Foods for Considerably less will make it easier to entry healthier food items regionally and, while also generating new work.

To be eligible for the HFFI system, food retail initiatives should settle for Supplemental Diet Support System (SNAP). More than 42 million low-money Americans get SNAP advantages and retailers serving lower-cash flow communities count on SNAP product sales as a crucial supply of profits for their operations. With an enhance in SNAP gains for US homes next the latest update of the Thrifty Foodstuff Strategy for the first time considering the fact that its institution, initiatives to broaden merchants that acknowledge SNAP positive aspects by means of plans these types of as HFFI enhance the modernized system to elevate food items entry in just underserved populations. HFFI cash are qualified to assignments in underserved spots, which include the USDA Lower Money, Reduced Entry (LILA) areas, and Reinvestment Fund’s Confined Grocery store Accessibility (LSA) areas, in order to deal with geographic disparities in healthful food accessibility that are rooted in historic disinvestment and disproportionately impact lower-money populations, people today of colour, and rural communities. Addressing the issue of meals accessibility for underserved populations by rising the affordability and accessibility of food items is closely tied to national attempts to lower food stuff insecurity. Rising food stuff accessibility minimizes some of the limitations households experience that may possibly guide to consistently disrupted and harmful food consumption patterns.  

A map of the Atlanta area demonstrating underserved parts in purple, which are eligible for the Healthful Foods Funding Initiative Focused Little Grants Program.

Shifting Ahead

Affordability, accessibility, collaboration, and regional attempts all engage in a component in addressing food stuff injustices from a point of view of group and economic wellbeing, in accordance to food items methods pro Susan Pavlin, who co-started TAPROOT, served as Founding Director of Frequent Industry Southeast and is a member of the national HFFI Expert Advisory Panel. “The strongest point that we could do as a point out and inside of the location is to get the job done with each other to develop a regional food financial state in which foods is sourced from people today in the [regional] communities,” describes Pavlin. “If we could get the job done collectively to construct the infrastructure, and the access…to make foodstuff a regional item, we would also be making additional prosperity in the group.”

Producing the food procedure inclusive for all communities across the region is a sophisticated endeavor, requiring multifaceted equipment and approaches at many scales, from the grass roots corporations to larger scale enterprises and govt entities. Pavlin also emphasizes the critical position of govt entities in this operate: “The Farm Monthly bill is a wonderful example with all forms of impacts in defining what are meals that people today can have obtain to as a result of subsidy plans. Packages like HFFI, which is intentionally wanting at how we break down some of all those limitations to raise entry to nutritious food items in retail configurations, are very fantastic nationwide programs that can actually make a variance.”

Pavlin also noted that states and counties also have a large amount of say in how that money is dispersed. It’s incumbent on states and counties to act in partnership with the federal governing administration to make confident that all those resources go exactly where they are desired. Federal courses like HFFI existing a framework for cross-sector partnerships that function to make investments in the food stuff techniques of historically marginalized communities by the distribution of economic and technical applications that make impacts at regional degree. With expanded funding from the federal government, HFFI could perhaps assistance expanding partnerships, capability constructing and lending throughout the food programs landscape that will more distribute methods into underserved communities. 

Undeniably, piloting foodstuff entry initiatives, such as those funded by HFFI, and addressing difficulties of foods insecurity in underserved communities starts with essential conversations at the area level about gaps and needs discovered by people today living and performing straight in these communities. Neighborhood, municipal, and state amount dialogues and attempts, these types of as efforts by the Georgia Senate to analyze foodstuff accessibility in the point out, form the basis for evaluating want, acquiring plan and allocating resources that can generate more sustainable and equitable neighborhood food programs. Finally, by investing in equitable and just foodstuff units across the nation via collaboration, partnerships, data and financial resources, we are developing the vital infrastructure for balanced and economically resilient communities.


The 2021 cycle of America’s Wholesome Meals Financing Initiative – Qualified Compact Grants Application is now accepting purposes for grant funding. To download the full Request for Programs and utilize on line, please pay a visit to


This is sponsored content material.