SunCoast Market Co-op was among 134 grantees announced today as receiving financial assistance awards through the 2021 round of America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 134 projects received a total of $22.6 million in financial assistance awards.

“We are thrilled to receive this financial award that will help us with the upcoming construction costs to open the doors to a 100% community-owned grocery store, serving the South Bay. We will be the second co-op in the county and aim to be a model for other underserved communities, like ours, that need better access to fresh, local, and healthy food. This grant brings us closer to our $3.2 million overall project goal,” says Kim Rivero Frink, SunCoast Board President.

Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects and food enterprises seeking financial assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to operating in underserved areas. The program received 566 Letter of Interest submissions to the RFA in December 2021. Based on eligibility, 359 applicants were invited to submit full applications in January 2022, with 294 final applications received by the deadline in March 2022.

As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administers the HFFI program on behalf of USDA. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans.

“The legacy of racist policies like redlining and the resulting disinvestment continue to harm communities in so many ways, including through the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “We are honored to work with the USDA to address some of these historical injustices through the HFFI program by investing in food systems assets that not only increase food access in underserved communities but improve health, strengthen local economies, grow wealth and quality jobs, and develop essential community anchors.”

Awardee projects are located 46 states, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Of the 134 financial assistance awardees, 45% serve rural communities and 81% are owned or led by people of color, women, and/or native people. Of the awardees, 69% are grocery retail projects. Another 31% of awardees offer alternative retail models including mobile markets, CSAs or food boxes.

“Our intent is to increase access to healthy food, support local farms and businesses, provide temporary construction jobs, and over 30 permanent jobs, and contribute over $6.5 million annually to the regional economy,” says Rivero Frink.

The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises that aimed to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program assists a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets. A full list of awardees is available at www.investinginfood.com.

Vol. 38, No. 25 - Thursday, June 23, 2022

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