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U.S. Department of Agriculture: America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative – Targeted Small Grants

Deadline: December 7, 2021

America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is a public-private partnership administered by Reinvestment Fund on behalf of USDA Rural Development to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas, to create and preserve quality jobs, and to revitalize low-income communities by providing financial and technical assistance to eligible fresh, healthy food retailers and enterprises to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas. Program support may also be used to mitigate hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HFFI Targeted Small Grants (TSG) program offers grants to eligible fresh, healthy food retailers and enterprises. The TSG program supports fresh food retail and food system enterprises that seek to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas through food retail. Grants could assist projects with a variety of aspects of project development, renovation, and/or expansion. Grants are designed to be one-time investments of capital into a food retail or food enterprise project in order to address higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved rural and urban areas. Grant funds should unlock additional sources of capital, catalyze project sustainability, meet financing gaps, and/or enable deeper impact or project reach. While the HFFI TSG Program is designed to support projects that respond to food access and food enterprise needs that were evolving prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on communities, retail outlets, and the food supply chain is recognized. Applicants may use their discretion to propose a project that otherwise meets program guidelines, and is or is not related to recovery from the pandemic, directly or indirectly.

The TSG program seeks to primarily support Retail Outlets or Food Enterprises within the food retail supply chain that meet the eligibility requirements described in this section of the RFA. For example, a retailer or developer might seek grant funding as a portion of an overall capital project to build a new grocery store or renovate a portion of an existing store, in order to retain or expand access to full-service grocery stores in an Underserved Area. A community-based nonprofit organization or cooperative might seek funding for predevelopment and materials to develop an alternative or non-traditional retail distribution model such as a pop-up retail outlet in a low-population community that has limited access to fresh foods. A retail applicant might seek funds to expand e-commerce or delivery options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A food enterprise applicant might seek funding for equipment to expand their produce distribution company in order to improve and expand food access at a number of Retail Outlets. It seeks applications from these types of projects and many others not described here.

Proposed projects could include (but are not limited to):
• Predevelopment: Projects should be ready for implementation or shovel-ready when applying for HFFI TSG Program grant funding, but grant needs can include predevelopment and soft costs, including market analysis, site location analysis, appraisals, architectural or design assistance, training, or other contractual or consulting uses.
• Brick and Mortar Facility Development: Hard capital costs including land or building acquisition; construction; and fixtures, furniture, and equipment for the construction, renovation, or expansion of a brick and mortar facility.
• Other capital needs: Hard costs for the creation, retrofit, expansion, or other one-time investment in capital needs for a retail operation or enterprise that isn’t for facility, including vehicles, machinery, equipment, technology, software, purchase of existing business assets, a one-time investment in inventory or raw materials, or other.
• Other soft costs: One-time soft costs such as training, consumer/community engagement, governance support, financial or development consultants, project management, marketing and merchandising work, environmental/energy assessments, food safety assistance, project learning and/or impact assessment, and other one-time soft costs that contribute to preserving or expanding access to food retail.

To be eligible for consideration, applicants must describe a project that fulfills the following criteria:
1. Plans to expand or preserve the availability of Staple and Perishable Foods in Underserved Areas (defined in Part I) with low- and moderate-income populations (defined in Part I); and
2. If the project involves retail sales, accepts or plans to accept benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) established under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

Amount: $4,000,000 is available to make 20-30 awards that range from $20,000 – $200,000.

Eligibility: For-profit, nonprofit, and cooperatively owned businesses, institutions of higher education, state and local governments, and tribal governments. Applicants may include food retailers or non-retail food enterprises.

Support is provided to eligible organizations in eligible Underserved Areas to implement a project that is designed to improve access to fresh, healthy food through food retail. The program will support projects aiming to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program could assist 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.

Eligible Locations: Projects in underserved urban and rural areas are eligible. Underserved Areas, are communities that have: (I) limited access to affordable, healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, in grocery retail stores or farmer-to-consumer direct markets; and (II) a high rate of hunger or food insecurity, or a high poverty rate. For the purposes of the TSG program, a project must be located:

1. In a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tract by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas; OR
2. In a Census tract adjacent to a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tracts by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas; and which has a median family income less than or equal to 120 percent of the applicable Area Median Family Income; OR
3. In a Geographic Unit as defined in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(B), which—
A. Individually meets at least one of the criteria in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(D), and
B. Meets the criteria as having low access to supermarket or grocery store through a methodology that has been adopted for use by another government or philanthropic healthy food initiative.

More information, including data and maps available to help determine if a proposed location is eligible, is available at https://www.investinginfood.com/eligibility/.

Link: https://www.investinginfood.com/about-hffi/

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