March 22, 2023—Across the country, 40 million Americans live in rural and urban neighborhoods where easy access to affordable, high-quality, and healthy food is out of reach. To expand access to healthy foods within underserved communities, Representative Barbara Lee (CA-12), joined by Representatives Shontel Brown (OH-11), Dwight Evans (PA-03) and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Reauthorization Act of 2023. The bill would reauthorize the HFFI program at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.
The HFFI program at USDA was first authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill due to more than a decade of advocacy and bipartisan support. The HFFI program was reauthorized and expanded to include support for food retail and food enterprises in the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation introduced in 2023 would broaden the bill to ensure stable funding, sustain improved access to healthy foods and spur economic revitalization in underserved communities.
The Reinvestment Fund serves as the National Fund Manager responsible for administering the USDA HFFI program. Twenty-seven million dollars in grants have been invested across 48 states, benefiting almost 190,000 people to date. The program’s public-private partnership model has enabled grantees to use new private resources to expand healthy food businesses such as grocery stores, food hubs, co-ops and other enterprises that increase the supply and demand for healthy foods in low-income, underserved rural and urban communities.
“A rural family driving an hour for fresh produce or an urban family navigating various zip codes across public transit to put healthy meals on their tables are results of systemic failure,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “Together, we can scale HFFI impact by ensuring sustainable funding – expanding the inroads we’ve made in breaking generational inequity. HFFI continues to be important because the market continues to create gaps in access. It is time for legislators to prove to Americans that they are committed to correcting systems that traditionally leave low-income families under-resourced.”
HFFI has proven itself as an effective approach to building a fair and resilient food system beneficial to both farmers and consumers, cities and rural communities across America. Congress will scale the impact of HFFI by growing the program and enabling it to continue for the long term.
Far too many low-income neighborhoods are cut off entirely from sources of healthy foods, which is no coincidence. It is a deliberate policy decision that must be addressed,” said Congresswoman Lee. “HFFI funding has been proven to bring healthy, affordable food options to low-income communities, and it’s time to make it mandatory.”
“The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a crucial resource,” says Jimmy Wright, owner of the independent grocery store Wright’s Market in Opelika, Alabama. “HFFI has helped grocers like me expand our businesses and innovate, so that we can continue to provide fresh, healthy, and affordable food and jobs in low-income, low-access communities. I hope to see this program continue for many years to come.”
We applaud the ongoing leadership and commitment of Representatives Lee, Brown, Evans, and Senators Casey and Gillibrand, each of whom have served as long-standing champions of HFFI and improving healthy food access. Learn more about HFFI’s impact and funding opportunities to date. Sign up here to stay involved with efforts to support HFFI here.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a mission-driven financial institution committed to making communities work for all people. We bring financial and analytical tools to partnerships that work to ensure that people in communities across the country have the opportunities they strive for: affordable places to live, access to nutritious food and health care, schools where their children can flourish, and strong, local businesses that support jobs. We use data to understand markets and how transactions can have the most powerful impact, which has consistently earned us the top Aeris rating of AAA for financial strength and four stars for impact management. Our asset and risk management systems have also earned us an A+ rating from S&P. Since our inception in 1985, Reinvestment Fund has provided over $2.4 billion in financing to strengthen neighborhoods, scale social enterprises, and build resilient communities. Learn more at reinvestment.com.