The Finance Fund Capital Corporation launched a program Monday that will provide funding to help grocers and fresh food retailers emerge in underserved communities across Ohio.
The Healthy Food for Ohio program will choose grocers and retailers that are serving low-income communities. Grocers and retailers must go through a two-step application process in order to be considered for the funding.
“The partners here today have made the connections between healthy food and healthy families, and how to create economically sound, community-driven, sustainable business solutions to food access issues,” Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers said at the launch event Monday. “I am proud that Ohio is taking a leadership role in this national effort. It will create jobs and provide more access to healthy foods, improving the lives of people in my district and across Ohio.”
Retailers that are chosen will receive start-up money to help them develop their stores. The funding will help grocers and retailers overcome initial start-up costs that would typically serve as barriers, FCAP president and CEO Diana Turoff said in a press release.
FCAP was chosen to lead the project after a competitive bid process. The organization has taken on projects involving healthy food development in the past.
In 2015, FCAP provided $8.5 million of federal New Markets Tax Credit allocation and over $2.5 million of Ohio NMTC allocation to a project that will put a new Kroger store in an economically distressed neighborhood in Columbus. The project will also introduce “The Little Clinic,” which will provide affordable healthcare to the area.
“FCAP has a commitment to improving access to healthy and affordable foods throughout the state of Ohio in those underserved areas,” FCAP spokeswoman Kimberly Scher said.
A 2014 report published by the FCAP noted that at the time over two million Ohio residents were living in lower-income communities that were underserved by supermarkets. The report pointed to a strong correlation between people living in communities without a supermarket and high rates of diet-related health issues.
Ohio ranked nationally as having the eigth highest adult obesity rate in 2014, with a rate of 32.6 percent, according to the non-profit group Trust for America’s Health. In 2000, the rate was at 20.6 percent.
“From the Ohio River to Lake Erie, we know that Ohio can make great strides in improving the health of all residents – especially those living in poverty – by expanding access to healthy, affordable foods,” Cynthia Dungey, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director, said. “The Healthy Food for Ohio program brings together partners from state government, the Ohio Grocers Association as well as a statewide Healthy Food Financing Task Force of leaders in public health, economic development, business and the civic and nonprofit sectors which helped identify the need and developed recommendations to support healthy food retail development in underserved areas.”
Applicants for the program will be approved on a rolling basis and will have to go through a pre-application process before they can officially apply for funding. The Food Trust, a national nonprofit organization, will facilitate FCAP in reviewing applications.
The program will continue as long as funding is available for grocers and food retailers. As long as there is demand for healthy food projects, FCAP plans on continuing to raise capital for the program, Scher said.