Healthy Food Financing Initiative


Improving access to healthy food in underserved areas

In the United States, roughly 40 million Americans struggle to provide proper nutrition to themselves and their families because they lack access to fresh and healthy food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Healthy Food Financing Initiative helps to link more families with healthy food by providing resources to healthy food retail and food enterprise projects to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to serving low-access areas. The program currently provides grants and technical assistance to eligible projects.  

Learn More About HFFI:

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is a public-private partnership administered by Reinvestment Fund, a national, nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) on behalf of USDA Rural Development. HFFI was established by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill), and reauthorized and expanded in 2018 Farm Bill.

HFFI offers grants and technical assistance to food retail and food system enterprises that seek to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. Grants could are available to assist projects with a variety of aspects of retail or enterprise development, renovation, or expansion.  Grants are made as one-time investments of capital into a food retail or food enterprise project, with the goal of helping them to overcome cost and other barriers to entry in underserved areas across the country.

Technical Assistance (TA) will is also available to eligible organizations, and may include: support with capacity building; identifying food access needs and potential interventions; project planning; market studies; feasibility studies; business planning; financial modeling; appraisals; and community or customer engagement. 

In addition to this new initiative under USDA, HFFI programs have also been supported by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2010. To date, HFFI programs have helped leverage more than $220 million in grants and an estimated $1 billion in additional financing. HFFI has also supported the introduction of nearly 1,000 grocery and other healthy food retail projects in more than 35 states across the country. These projects have played a major role in revitalizing economies, creating jobs, and improving access to healthy food. 

Click here to find a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that offers financing options for eligible food projects.

Eligibility

For-profit businesses, cooperative businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments and governmental agencies are eligible to apply.  Eligible applicants must propose a project that:

  1. Plans to expand or preserve the availability of staple and perishable foods in underserved areas with low and moderate-income populations.
  2. Accepts benefits (if the project involves retail sales) under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) established under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 USC 2011 et. Seq.).

To be eligible for financial or technical assistance through USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, applicants must propose a project in an underserved area. To determine if a project’s proposed location qualifies as underserved, search the interactive map on the HFFI website.

HFFI in Action

In the 2019 funding round, Reinvestment Fund awarded a total of $1.4 million in financial assistance to 10 projects and a total of $400,000 in technical assistance awards to 13 projects. 

  • West Virginia: The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition (NSAC members) along with healthy food access and food system development partners throughout the state, will launch the WV Grocer Lab. This project will support food access in three communities in West Virginia and develop a coordinated approach for future retail development in the region. The WV Grocer Lab will provide consulting services, equipment, inventory, and other supplies to the two rural and one urban retail supermarket projects. The project will also develop a learning network among the retail models to help grocers access regional food supply chain networks, reduce inventory costs and enhance long-term sustainability.
  • Illinois: Forty Acres Fresh Market and Westside Health Authority are partnering on the Austin Grocery Initiative, which will open a 3,000 square foot specialty grocery store that provides affordable fresh food for the west side neighborhood of Austin, Chicago. Forty Acres Market will operate a pop-up market in Austin, one weekend per month for a year, while in the predevelopment stage of the brick and mortar location.
  • South Dakota: Buche Foods used their award to reopen a grocery store located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. After years of unstable operations and poor management, Buche Foods was awarded the contract by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council to revitalize and manage the grocery store on the reservation. The grant will support the relaunch of the store and will bring stability to a distressed community.

Read more about how HFFI has helped improve access to healthy food in underserved areas at: HFFI 2019 Impact.

How to Apply and Program Resources

HFFI is administered by a fund manager, Reinvestment Fund. Reinvestment Fund will release a Request for Applications for each grant funding round, typically once a year.  

Interested applicants can find out more about program and application requirements, stay informed about future RFAs, and review Frequently Asked Questions at www.investinginfood.com.

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

USDA’s HFFI was created in the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized HFFI, and expanded eligibility from only food retail to food retail and food enterprises. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the program with appropriations authority of $125 million total until expended, however, the program did not receive any mandatory funding in that farm bill or receive is first appropriated dollars until FY 2017. 

The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized the program at $125 million until expended. Because USDA’s HFFI does not receive mandatory farm bill funding, the program must rely on the annual appropriations process. Appropriations for HFFI to date are detailed in the chart below.

Fiscal YearTotal Federal Award (millions)
2017$1
2018$1
2019$2
2020$5

Authorizing Language

Section 4204 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 amends Section 4206 of the Agriculture Act of 2014.


This page last updated December 2019.