FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Please refer to the eligibility criteria for full program guidelines.

What is the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (PA FFFI)?

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing provides loans, grants, and business assistance for increasing access to healthy, affordable food in low-income, underserved areas. Started with seed funding from the state and administered by nonprofit partners, the PA FFFI prioritizes support for businesses selling fresh food that is grown, raised, or harvested in PA. The program offers critical financial and technical support to help launch and expand businesses that increase food access, create jobs, and stimulate economic investment in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the Commonwealth.

When did the PA FFFI start and who manages it?

The PA FFFI is overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and administered by The Food Trust, with support from CDFI partners Reinvestment Fund, Community First Fund, and Bridgeway Capital. The program was established in legislation in 2004 with funds being fully deployed in 2010. After a multi-year advocacy campaign spearheaded by The Food Trust and partners of Food Forward PA, the Pennsylvania legislature included $1 million of seed funding to recapitalize the program in the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget. The program officially launched in spring 2019.

What projects are eligible?

To be eligible, projects must expand access to high-quality, affordable and nutritious food in under-resourced neighborhoods via a retail outlet. They must also fit local community needs and demonstrate support from local residents.

 Applicants may be for-profit, nonprofit, or cooperative entities. Eligible projects include the development, renovation and expansion of:

  • Grocery stores
  • Corner stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Neighborhood stores
  • Bodegas
  • Food hubs
  • Mobile markets
  • Co-ops
  • Farmers markets
  • Food aggregation and processing centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets

The project must be located in an area that is low-to-moderate income, meaning it’s either in a census tract with a Median Family Income of up to 80% of Area Median Income, or a poverty rate of 20% or higher. The area must also be underserved by fresh food retail, so there can't be other similar fresh food markets or grocery stores already within its trade area.

Projects must operate and provide service in Pennsylvania. To the extent possible, they must also accept SNAP and WIC, and include team members with experience managing a similar food project.

Can an existing grocery store or project apply?

Yes. An existing store or project can be eligible if financing would help it renovate or expand in order to substantially improve its ability to provide access to nutritious food in qualified areas.

How are projects selected for funding?

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis while funds remain available. When an application is received, program partners will assess the proposed project to see if it meets the eligibility criteria. Preference will be given to projects that build wealth within communities most affected by lack of healthy food access, and that enhance racial, gender, and economic equity, and support the environment and local food system. Businesses are encouraged to demonstrate how they promote opportunities for enterprises of diverse ownership, hire employees from the surrounding neighborhoods, pay living wages, source food from PA farmers, increase accessibility for customers through means of public transportation, and align with existing goals of local government and residents. The program will also strive for diversity of types of projects and project locations in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the Commonwealth.

How does the application process work?

Applying for financing from the PA FFFI program is a two‐step process: eligibility determination and financial approval.

First, the applicant must complete the Pre-Application so we can determine whether the proposed project aligns with the objectives of the program. Applicants can complete the Pre-Application. The Food Trust will review the pre-application, schedule a phone call with the applicant, and conduct research to determine whether the project and its location meet the eligibility criteria. They will then make a recommendation and discuss with the local program administrators, Reinvestment Fund, Community First Fund, and Bridgeway Capital. Applicants will be notified within 2-4 weeks of having submitted a complete Pre-Application as to whether they are invited to move onto the financing part of the application process. If they are eligible, they’ll receive an Application for Financing, and the financial review and underwriting process will continue from there.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so we encourage interested applicants to apply as soon as possible.

What resources are available?

The PA FFFI program provides loans, grants, and business assistance.

Financing packages may include loans, grants, and other funding tools on a case-by-case basis to appropriately meet the needs of each project. Each eligible application will be underwritten and assessed for financial viability.

What are permitted uses of funds?

Grant and loans can be used for predevelopment costs, land assembly, including demolition and environmental remediation, site development, infrastructure improvement, including renovation, new construction or adaptive reuse, equipment purchases that improve the availability and quality of fresh produce, and innovative food access technology that assists the healthy food access efforts of an existing or new grocery store.

Can I apply for both a loan and a grant?

Yes. Where appropriate, some applications will be approved for a grant only, or for both a grant and a loan simultaneously. However, most grant funds will be used to pay for business and technical support to strengthen a business plan or help create financial projections in order for a loan to be approved. Most grants will be linked to a loan.

 

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