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November Featured Article

Food Deserts and the Obama Policy

Triad Associates

Earlier this year the Obama administration unveiled the Healthy Food Financing Initiative with over $400 million in funding.  This initiative, in concert with the “Let’s Move” campaign advocated by Michelle Obama, is intended to solve the childhood obesity problem in America within one generation by bringing “grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America”.  The healthy food financing initiative will be funded through three departments: the Treasury Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.  While each department will execute grants and programs based on their areas of expertise, it is intended that these monies will help eliminate “food deserts” throughout urban areas that are underserved by grocery stores that offer healthy food such as fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Thus far only the Treasury Department has unveiled their promised funds through their annual Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Program and New Market Tax Credit Program (NMTC).  These programs provide financial and technical assistance awards to communities providing credit, access to credit and financial tools to otherwise undeserved areas that will create community development impact.  The grant released on October 5, 2010 has $135 million in funding and $25 million specifically dedicated to CDFI’s devoted to helping finance healthy food options.  The grant is due November 19, 2010 and the applicants must be a certified Community Development Financial Institution by the CDFI fund, or be certifiable as a CDFI by the CDFI fund. 

Other grants under the Healthy Food Financing Initiative that are anticipated to roll-out in the upcoming months include the following:

  • The Department of Agriculture has proposed funding of $50 million through “grants, loans, promotions and other programs that can provide financial and technical assistance to enhance access to healthy foods in under-served communities, expand demand and retail outlets for farm products and increase the availability of locally and regionally produced foods.” 

  • The Department of Health and Human Services has committed $20 million in Community Economic Development programs funds to “support projects that finance grocery stores, farmers markets and other sources of fresh nutritious foods”.  The purpose of the Department of Health Funds will be intended to facilitate access to healthy food options, while creating jobs and business development in low income communities. 

While the aforementioned funds have not been rolled out yet it is important to get an inventory of potential projects within your community so when grants are announced a plan is in place to have a better chance to obtain funds and complete the application process in a timely manner. 

Additionally, there are several grant opportunities right now that also promote a healthy lifestyle that maybe helpful for your community.  The first grant, under the Food and Nutrition Service is the People’s Garden Pilot Program Grant.  This U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, with $1 million in funding, is awarding grants to develop and run community gardens at eligible high poverty schools to teach students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, diet and nutrition.  “The goal is to produce food to supplement local foods banks, student households and senior center nutrition programs as well as conducting an evaluation of funded projects to learn more about the impacts of school gardens.”  This grant is due November 8, 2010.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant with $5 million in funding.  Community Food Projects should be designated to:

1.  Meet the food needs of low income people, increase the self reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues; and/or

2. Meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agriculture needs for infrastructure improvement and development and plan for long term solutions or aid in the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agriculture products and low income consumers.

There are specific requirements for this grant, such as only private, non-profit entities meeting specific requirements may apply, and its due date is November 17, 2010. 

Your community may not reach the deadline for a project this year, however planning ahead and assessing the needs of your community can help develop programs that have potential funding sources that increase the quality of life for residents.



Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities.


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