case study: california

In July 2011, following an earlier effort to enact AB 581, the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative passed by Governor Brown, the state launched a new model for financing healthy food access for the more than one million Californians living without ready access to fresh, healthy food (36). With celebration from former First Lady Michelle Obama and leadership and investment from the philanthropic sector, The California Endowment and partners launched the California FreshWorks Fund (CAFWF).

CAFWF, a public-private partnership loan fund, spurs economic development and inspires innovation in healthy food retailing by providing loan and grant financing to grocery stores and other eligible healthy food access projects. In its first iteration, CAFWF raised more than $273 million, including leveraged funding from the federal HFFI, and was administered by Capital Impact Partners, a CDFI. Currently, the Northern California Community Loan Fund, another California-based CDFI, is serving as the lead administrator of the program, in partnership with a diverse range of investors, advisers and partners. Emerging Markets serves as the program’s food access organization, responsible for sourcing loan and grant opportunities.


To date, the CAFWF has supported nearly 69 projects serving urban and rural communities across the state, increased access for more than 800,000 Californians and created or retained 1,600 jobs.

To further capture the impact of the program, The California Endowment commissioned a two-year evaluation, which was undertaken by two third party organizations — The Sarah Samuels Center for Public Health Research & Evaluation and Insight at Pacific Community Ventures — and culminated in the release of three reports on the program:

  1. The Social and Economic Impacts of California FreshWorks

  2. A Case Study Examining the Development and Implementation of FreshWorks

  3. The Social and Economic Impacts of FreshWorks: An Examination of Three Northgate González Grocery Store Investments

View these reports here.

Overall, topline findings from the evaluation — specifically of three Northgate Gonzalez Markets — demonstrated the newly financed stores improved access to healthy food in the local community and resulted in increased purchasing of fresh fruits and vegetables. The investments also created more than 400 local jobs, generated an estimated $42 million of economic impact in their construction, and are set to generate an additional $33 million annually through normal business operations.

Next Case Study: Colorado

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