case study: HFFI in Rural Communities and Small Towns

Grocery stores are important anchor businesses in small towns and rural areas, attracting foot traffic and supporting the vitality of nearby businesses, such as pharmacies and hardware stores and promoting health by offering a year-round source of produce and other healthy foods. In many rural communities, grocery stores can be the only source of fresh food for miles. The USDA estimates that 2.3 million people live in rural areas that lack access to healthy food, 60% of whom are low-income. Another 1.6 million rural households in the U.S. do not have access to a car and are transit dependent, despite a severe lack of accessible public transportation systems (13) (37).

healthy food financing initiatives provide flexibility and tools

An evaluation by Reinvestment Fund on the impact on rural stores financed through the first HFFI in the country, the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, found the program had a positive impact on the rural stores supported and the communities they serve. The study, PA Fresh Food Financing Initiative: Case Study of Rural Grocery Store Investments, highlights how rural and small town grocers benefitted from healthy food financing, how funds were used and the impact on the stores and their communities. The key findings from the analysis found:

  • New and expanded stores funded experienced increased sales employment
  • FFFI financing to the rural stores filled critical gap financing to realize their business goals
  • Five of the six studied stores increased employment in their communities — the sixth is operated as a co-op
RURAL STORES FINANCED BY THE PA FFFI

Rural operators were also interviewed, and the report features their testimonies to the importance and value of the PA FFFI program to their business:

“Without FFFI the market wouldn’t be here.”
—     Ryan Shaut, Bloss Holiday Market

“As a small business, access to money can be tough. [FFFI financing] was a great help to us.”
—     Betsy Whitsel, Cassville Country Store

Owner Bob Hurley feels the FFFI grant was critical to the success of the funding package, saying the grant “helped us build a track record with the bank because they disbursed the funds.”
—     Hurley’s Fresh Market

Other HFFI programs across the country have had similar positive impacts on healthy food retail development in underserved rural communities across the country. Here are a few examples of rural projects funded through HFFIs in different states:

PROJECT EXAMPLE: STOP & SHOP, LIMON, CO with project highlights

PROJECT EXAMPLE: BLOSS HOLIDAY MARKET, BLOSSBURG, PA with project highlights

PROJECT EXAMPLE: CAMPBELL’S MARKET, MCARTHUR, OH with project highlights
Next Case Study: Alternative HFFI Projects

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