Case study: ohio
In 2014, the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership and Finance Fund, an Ohio-based CDFI, worked with The Food Trust to conduct a statewide research study to identify communities in Ohio that lack access to healthy food. Study findings translated into a mapping report, Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Ohio, which revealed that more than 2 million Ohioans, including 500,000 children, live in lower-income communities underserved by supermarkets. The report launched a series of meetings of the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force beginning in June 2014.
The task force was composed of almost 50 leaders from economic development, public health, civic, academic, nonprofit, philanthropic and other sectors, as well as the grocery industry. The group identified key barriers to developing healthy food retail in underserved areas and outlined common-sense policy recommendations for overcoming those barriers, which were released in the Supporting Grocery Development in Ohio report. A key recommendation of the task force was the creation of a statewide HFFI.
In parallel with the task force process, The Food Trust worked with Finance Fund to build a pipeline of potential projects that would utilize a healthy food financing program should the program be launched. This pipeline development proved critical in both demonstrating the demand for the statewide program, as well as helping the program to launch rapidly and efficiently once it was created.
The American Heart Association in Ohio played a critical role in the advocacy for the statewide program through Voices for Healthy Kids. Voices for Healthy Kids is an initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation working to create environments where all children can grow up at a healthy weight.
In June 2015, Governor John Kasich (R) signed the FY 2016-17 state operating budget that included a $2 million appropriation through the General Revenue Fund to capitalize the statewide Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program. The measure received strong support from Ohio State Representative Ryan Smith, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who became interested in the issue after one of the communities in his district, Vinton County, lost its only grocery store. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, which oversees the program, conducted a competitive application process and selected Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP), a statewide Community Development Financial Institution, to implement the program and distribute funds to projects. FCAP leveraged the state’s seed funding with $2 million from the federal HFFI program, as well as more than $10 million in additional funding from banks, foundations and other sources.
The HFFO program launched in March 2016. It supports the development of new and existing grocery stores and other healthy food retail in lower-income, underserved areas throughout the state by providing loans and grants to cover costs associated with land acquisition, predevelopment, construction, equipment, infrastructure and related expenses, as well as credit needs not typically filled by conventional financial institutions. FCAP contracted The Food Trust to serve as the Food Access Organization to help implement the program by conducting outreach, continuing pipeline development and screening applications for program eligibility. As a result of the pipeline development that took place ahead of the launch of the program, the HFFO was able to get off the ground quickly, funding five projects in its first 10 months. An array of types and sizes of projects, from large full-service grocery stores, to small neighborhood stores, to mobile markets and food hubs are being funded in urban and rural areas all over the state.