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Health Food for Ohio

On March 10, 2016, OGA President & CEO Kristin Mullins joined Congressman Steve Stivers, Representative Ryan Smith, Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP), The Food Trust, and members of the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force to officially launch the statewide Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program. This collaborative effort has been the two-year journey, undertaken by a collective group of public and private task force members. HFFO will provide loans and grants to food retailers developing new or renovating existing fresh food retail in low-income underserved communities throughout Ohio. To learn more, or find out if a project is eligible for funding, go to www.financefund.org and click on "Healthy Food Provider." If you have any additional questions on the program please contact Kristin Mullins at 614-448-1622 or by email kristin@ohiogrocers.org.

Healthy Food Initiative Resources:

Do You Know of a Fresh Food Project that Needs Funding to Get Started or Expand?

Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) can help. Through the new Healthy Food for Ohio (HFFO) program, FCAP offers loans and flexible financing for a wide range of new and existing food-related projects including retail stores, food hubs, co-ops and farmer's markets. Funds may be used for costs associated with land acquisition, pre-development, construction, equipment, infrastructure, rehab, and related expenses.

Apply today. It's easy. FCAP is actively reviewing funding requests and would like to hear from you right away. To get started, review the Program Guidelines and complete an online Pre-Application.  For additional information, you can visit www.financefund.org and click on the "Healthy Food Provider" link.

Healthy Food for Ohio provides:

    • Loans: Up to $5 million and 10 years
    • Forgivable loans: Available up to 20% of funds provided by HFFO
    • Grants: Up to $250,000 with exception for Extraordinary Awards
    • NOTE: Grants or forgivable loans are subject to available sources within this program at the time of consideration.

Funding packages are customized for each project on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions, please contact FCAP Lending Officer Omar Elhagmusa at oelhagmusa@financefund.org or call 614.568.5070.

Healthy Food For Ohio Program Aims To Encourage Grocers To Open In ‘Food Deserts'

A program launched March 7, 2016, and has its sights set on encouraging the development of more grocery stores and other retail outlets selling fresh food in underserved rural and urban areas. Finance Fund Capital Corporation, or FCAP, announced the start of the Healthy Food for Ohio program, a public-private partnership that has raised about $10 million - including $2 million from the state - for grants and loans to put grocers in so-called food deserts.

The funding is designed to incentivize the construction of grocery stores by offering financing for costs like land acquisition, construction and equipment that might otherwise be too expensive for a company to consider entering an underserved market. "Ohio's taken a really great step toward improving the overall health and well-being of its residents, as access to healthy food goes hand-in-hand with neighborhood and economic revitalization," Caroline Harries, associate director of The Food Trust, which will work with FCAP to review applications, said at a Columbus news conference.The program came out of recommendations made last year by the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force. That group called for lawmakers to create a program to incentivize development of fresh food retailers in underserved areas. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, February 12, 2015)

In last year's biennial budget (HB 64), lawmakers included funding for the Department of Job and Family Services to administer the program.

FCAP Director of Development Valerie Heiby said the fund currently has about $10 million, including the $2 million from the state and about as much from the federal government. The rest is from private fundraising, and they aren't done with that yet."HFFO will help overcome funding gaps and barriers faced by grocers and other healthy food retailers operating in underserved areas," FCAP President and CEO Diana Turoff said. The program would be open to all kinds of grocers, from big chain stores to independent mom-and-pop stores to farmers markets. Lawmakers said the program is one more way to encourage private companies to move into areas where they're needed, but where they might not otherwise go.

"There's been a federal program to finance healthy foods for a number of years and in many places," U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) said. "It's just not enough to close the gap."

Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell), the House Finance Committee chairman who sponsored the state budget bill, said it will help rural areas like his district. Vinton County, a rural county in southeast Ohio and one of the state's least populous, hasn't had a grocery store since 2013, he said.

"When I tell people in Columbus that we don't have a grocery store in the entire county, they look at me like I have three heads," Rep. Smith said. This program might reduce the risk a company would face in building a grocery store there, he said, which would save residents a trip of dozens of miles just to buy fresh food. "I would hope that private business would fill that void, but after two, almost three years, it hasn't," he said. Kristin Mullins, president and CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association, said grocery stores operate on very small margins, and anything that can help defray the upfront costs of building a store will help a store stay in an area. Stores at risk of closure can also apply for help through the program.

"No grocer ever wants to close," she said. "Anything that can be done to help that is much appreciated."

Grocery stores are important because they can help residents improve their diets, said Rosemary Riley, an exercise physiologist and dietitian. People who live in lower-income areas without access to grocery stores are more likely to suffer from diet-related health conditions, she said. Diet even plays a bigger role in problems like obesity than exercise, she said.

"I believe lack of access to healthy food is a collective responsibility for all of us," she said. "Everyone deserves the chance to have a healthy diet."

Healthy Food Financing Initiative Story Links