Healthier communities through financing

Healthy Food Financing Initiatives (HFFIs) are public-private financing programs that invest in new or expanding grocery stores and other fresh food retail outlets in under-resourced, low- to moderate-income communities throughout the United States. Healthier communities create healthier economies, and research shows that the development or presence of a grocery store not only improves health outcomes but also creates jobs and stimulates additional investment.

Apply for funding in Pennsylvania

Millions of Americans live in communities without access to a supermarket or other healthy food retail. This problem impacts residents of urban and rural areas alike, especially those living in lower-income and communities of color. The built environment is deeply intertwined with the social determinants of health, and communities without a strong healthy food infrastructure also experience lower levels of employment, higher rates of food insecurity, higher transportation costs, higher rates of diet-related disease and a range of other challenges.

Healthier communities create healthier economies, and research shows that the development or presence of a grocery store not only improves health outcomes but also creates jobs and stimulates additional investment. HFFI programs can also help address food retail redlining and a lack of access to capital for small food retailers.

HFFIs provide one-time grants and loans, as well as technical assistance, to fresh food retailers to increase access to healthy, affordable food options and to improve economic development opportunities.

Healthy food retailers supported by HFFIs not only promote equitable access to healthy food by offering opportunities to purchase nutritious foods, but they also serve as economic anchors to further commercial revitalization, creating local jobs, generating tax revenues, and capturing local dollars within the community, among other economic and community development outcomes.


Today, The Food Trust works with partners across the country to develop and implement programs that offer financing and technical support to grocery stores and other healthy food retail in under-resourced neighborhoods. We currently support the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (recapitalized in 2018), the Massachusetts Food Trust Program and the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative, and have recently supported the Deep South Healthy Food Initiative.

The Food Trust also supports partners implementing or applying for the two HFFI programs at the Federal Level:

History of HFFIs

In 2001, The Food Trust published Food For Every Child: The Need for More Supermarkets in Philadelphia, a report which mapped food access in Philadelphia. The report, which found that the city’s lower-income communities also had lowest supermarket access and the highest rates of diet-related deaths, spurred Philadelphia City Council hearings. At the request of City Council, The Food Trust convened the Food Marketing Task Force, a group of high-level representatives from the public health, economic development and grocery retailing sectors, to identify the challenges to operating supermarkets in underserved areas and propose policy recommendations to address these challenges.

From that task force – and the support of Pennsylvania State Representative Dwight Evans – came the Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), an innovative grants and loan program to encourage fresh food retail development in under-resourced areas. Pennsylvania’s FFFI was seeded with $30 million in state funds over three years, and this seed money was leveraged by The Reinvestment Fund, a Community Financial Development Institution. The Reinvestment Fund and The Food Trust co-managed the initiative.

Pennsylvania’s FFFI approved 88 projects for funding, representing 1.67 million square feet of retail space and 5,000 jobs created or retained, making healthy food more available to an estimated 400,000 of the state’s underserved residents.

Named one of the top government innovations in the country by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the success of FFFI made the initiative’s public-private structure a model for other cities and states committed to improving food access.

At a national level, an effort to raise awareness of the issue of limited food access by The Food Trust and our partners PolicyLink and Reinvestment Fund, led to the creation of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture and Health to provide financing for developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores and farmers’ markets selling healthy food in underserved areas.

Learn more about the history of HFFIs and the Pennsylvania FFFI in this blog post by Rita Ouimet, Project Coordinator on the HFFI team.

How to Manage an HFFI

Developing Program Guidelines and Materials
The Food Trust works with partners to develop program criteria, guidelines, applications and marketing materials, as well as a framework for evaluating community impact.

Building a Project Pipeline
Working with grocers, wholesalers and trade associations across the country, as well as farmers markets, public markets, corner stores, mobile vendors and food cooperatives, The Food Trust serves as a liaison between underserved communities and healthy food retailers by identifying potential sites, cultivating qualified applications and informing retailers of opportunities for development.

Determining Applicant Eligibility
Eligibility analysis requires a nuanced understanding of food access in underserved communities. Using maps, data tools and community perspective, The Food Trust evaluates healthy food financing applications to ensure that projects are sustainable, reflect community preferences, and improve food access in true areas of need before a comprehensive financial assessment is undertaken.

Prioritizing Projects and Preparing for a Store Opening
The Food Trust advises healthy food financing program partners while applicants go through the financing and development process, and prioritizes projects that generate the greatest impact.

Providing Technical Assistance to Retailers
The Food Trust offers technical assistance to retailers in areas such as in-store healthy food marketing, nutrition education, community engagement and local food procurement.

Evaluating Program Impacts
Together with academic institutions, The Food Trust conducts ongoing evaluation of healthy food financing outcomes. With national partnerships, The Food Trust helps elevate program impacts and successes at the local and national level.

Meet the Healthy Food Financing Initiative team


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