Frequently Asked Questions


What is an underserved area?

The term “underserved area” has the same meaning as “underserved community,” which, as defined by Section 6015 of the 2008 Farm Bill, means a community (including an urban or rural community and an Indian tribal community) that has: (1) limited access to affordable, healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, in grocery retail stores or farmer-to-consumer direct markets; and (2) a high rate of hunger or food insecurity or a high poverty rate.

For the purpose of satisfying the project requirements for HFFI, an underserved area must either: 1) be a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Access Census Tract by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas; 2) be a Census tract adjacent to a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Access Census Tract by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas; which has a median family income less than or equal to 120 percent of the applicable Area Median Family Income; or 3) be a Geographic Unit as defined in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(B), which—individually meets at least one of the criteria in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(D), and meets the criteria as having low access to supermarkets or grocery stores through a methodology that has been adopted for use by another government or philanthropic healthy food initiative.

Confirm your project’s eligibility with data available in our Eligibility section.


How does this program differ from HFFI at Treasury & HHS?

The purpose of the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) is to improve access to affordable, healthy foods in urban and rural areas, particularly lower income neighborhoods and communities. Thus far funded through U.S., Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Economic Development (CED) Program and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, HFFI grants and loans have supported a wide range of healthy food projects that are designed to meet locally determined community needs and priorities, including the construction of new and renovated grocery stores, farmers markets, corner stores, food hubs, and urban farms.

The HFFI program at USDA will fund projects intended to “expand or preserve the availability of staple and perishable foods in underserved areas with low and moderate-income populations by maintaining or increasing the number of retail outlets that offer an assortment of perishable and staple foods in those areas; and, accepts or plans to accept benefits under the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) established under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 USC 2011 et. Seq.)”


Are non-retail projects eligible to apply?

For 2019, the program could only fund retail projects that will accept, or plan to accept, benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Are mobile markets or farmers markets eligible to apply?

Mobile markets, farmers markets, and other non-traditional retail models are eligible for grants as long as they will accept benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and will offer staple and perishable foods, as defined in Section 4206 of the Agricultural Act of 2014


What are staple or perishable foods?

As defined in Section 4206 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, the term ‘staple food’ means food that is a basic dietary item, which includes bread, flour, fruits, vegetables and meat.

As defined in Section 4206 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, the term ‘perishable food’ means a staple food that is fresh, refrigerated, or frozen.


What types of activity can the program support?

The program may support activities including, but not limited to:

  • Predevelopment costs such as: market studies, feasibility studies, financial modeling, appraisals, consumer/customer surveys, cooperative governance support, architectural plans, environmental assessments, energy audits, succession planning, financial and development consultants;
  • Machinery and equipment purchases;
  • Purchases of inventory;
  • Purchase of delivery vehicle to provide increased healthy food access in an underserved community;
  • Purchase of existing business assets (and/or capital assets) to retain healthy food access in a community;
  • Investments in technology including new POS systems, online ordering capacity and accounting or back office software;
  • Non-revenue generating, one-time project costs such as employee training.

Are you offering grants or loans?

Currently, this HFFI program offers grants and technical assistance support, although loans may be offered in the future. Many states and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) offer loans for healthy food access projects. To find additional sources of funding for a project, including loans, visit the Healthy Food Access Portal.


Is my project eligible for funding?

The application period for the 2019 HFFI program is now closed. Information about new funding opportunities, including eligibility requirements, will be available in the future. Sign up here to stay informed.