Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs will be updated frequently with additional content and relevant resources. Last updated: November 15, 2021
 

Where can I find the HFFI 2021 Request for Applications?

The 2021 RFA can be downloaded here.

 

If I was eligible during the 2019-2020 grants cycles, will I be eligible for the 2021 cycle?

The same requirements for organizations and projects apply for the 2021 grants cycle.  However, the 2021 Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program geographic eligibility requirements have been updated to reflect the most recent Low Income, Low Supermarket Access (LILA) census tract-level data from the 2021 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Access Research Atlas. As a result, some applicants who were previously eligible under the HFFI 2019 and 2020 RFA may no longer be located in census-tracts that are eligible Underserved Areas for the 2021 Targeted Small Grants Program grant round. To determine your eligibility, please review the guidelines and mapping tool at https://www.investinginfood.com/eligibility/.

 

When will applicants be notified of awards?

We expect to notify applicants of awards in late Spring of 2022.

 

When will the grant period begin and end? When will funds be available?

There is no standard grant period begin date for all grantees. We will customize the start date for each grantee based on their needs, and it should be within 90 days of the grant agreement signing date, which should be shortly after the time you are notified of your award. You can feel free to project in your application what grant end date seems reasonable to you based on your project timeline, as long as it is no longer than 12 months after the start date for non-construction projects, and 24 months for construction projects. Funds will be available for disbursement, either as a reimbursement or an advance, throughout the grant period. Funds will be disbursed according to a schedule determined in consultation with the selected grantee as appropriate for their grant project.

 

Will this grant program be offered again next year?

We hope to make this grant opportunity available again in the future, possibly on an annual basis, depending on funding availability. There is no guarantee of future funding.

 

What are the requirements for SAM registration? 

Applicants are required to register with the System for Award Management (SAM) at sam.gov and keep the sam.gov registration open until application process is complete. If an applicant is selected to receive a grant award, SAM registration must be active throughout the life of the award.

You can register with SAM at https://sam.gov/SAM/. SAM is an official website of the U.S. government. There is no cost to use SAM. For more information and assistance with using SAM, please review the HELP page at: https://sam.gov/content/help and/or contact SAM directly.

When applicants submit their LOI, they will be asked (yes or no) if they have a SAM registration. During the application process, prior to making grant awards, Reinvestment Fund will screen applicants for SAM registration.

 

Can this grant support programs that provide incentives, coupons, or prescriptions for food?

This grant program is focused on supporting operators or retail access points themselves in providing food for sale, rather than supporting consumers in buying foods. Programs to administer, promote, or run an incentive program, such as prescriptions for fresh food or double bucks coupons are not eligible. The coupons themselves are not an eligible grant use. However, retailers themselves that wish to participate in these programs may use grant funds to support some costs associated with participating, such as equipment, personnel, or increased inventory.

 

What is an underserved area?

The term “underserved area” is defined by Section 6015 of the 2008 Farm Bill, as a community (including an urban or rural community and an Indian tribal community) that has:  limited access to affordable, healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, in grocery retail stores or farmer-to-consumer direct markets; and a high rate of hunger or food insecurity or a high poverty rate. To satisfy the project requirements for the HFFI TSG Program, an underserved area must be:

  1. In a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tract by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas;
  2. OR in a Census tract adjacent to a Census tract determined to be a Low-Income and Low-Supermarket-Access Census Tracts by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Food Access Research Atlas; and which has a median family income less than or equal to 120 percent of the applicable Area Median Family Income;
  3. OR in a Geographic Unit as defined in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(B), which—
  1. Individually meets at least one of the criteria in 12CFR Part 1805.201(b)(3)(ii)(D), and
  2. Meets the criteria as having low access to supermarket or grocery store 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 other programs called HFFI?

Since 2009, PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and Reinvestment Fund have led a national effort to raise awareness of the issue of limited food access in many communities across America.  To date, multiple federal, state, and local governments and philanthropies have supported healthy food financing policies and initiatives.

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, federal HFFI programs have supported various healthy food initiatives that are designed to meet locally determined community needs and priorities. These HFFI programs have provided grants and loans to help construct new and renovated grocery stores, farmers markets, corner stores, food hubs, and urban farms. In addition, several states and municipalities have developed HFFI programs based on the public-private model of investment in food access.

The 2014 Farm Bill created a new Healthy Food Financing Initiative within USDA, to be administered by a CDFI. This program, called America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, is managed by Reinvestment Fund, and currently offers direct grants and technical assistance to eligible healthy food retail projects and food enterprises.

 

Are non-retail projects eligible to apply?

Yes, the 2021 Targeted Small Grants Program is open to retail and non-retail food enterprise projects that meet other eligibility criteria.

Food enterprises are businesses or organizations along the food supply chain such as food hubs; food producers, distributors, processors, and manufacturers; commercial kitchens and food business incubators; mobile markets; and other direct to consumer markets. Food enterprises do not necessarily involve the direct sale of food to consumers.

Please refer to the eligibility section of the RFA for more details on eligible applicants and projects. 

 

What kinds of non-retail projects are eligible?

Food Enterprises are eligible for the HFFI TSG program. “Food Enterprises” are defined in the RFA as businesses or organizations along the food supply chain such as food hubs; food producers, distributors, processors, and manufacturers; commercial kitchens and food business incubators; mobile markets; and other direct to consumer markets. Food Enterprises do not necessarily involve the direct sale of food to consumers. This program aims to support projects that will increase access to healthy food for retail sale by supporting Food Enterprises in the food retail supply chain.

 

Are mobile markets or farmers markets eligible to apply?

Mobile markets, farmers markets, and other non-traditional retail models are eligible for grants if 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.

Please refer to the eligibility section of the RFA for more details on eligible applicants and projects. 

 

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.

 

Are community gardens eligible?

Projects that are primarily focused on gardening and farming are not eligible for HFFI grant funding. Projects to support retail food sales at community gardens are eligible if they that offer an assortment of staple and perishable foods and accept SNAP.

Please refer to the eligibility section of the RFA for more details on eligible applicants and projects. 

 

Can I apply for projects at more than one location?

Yes, projects may apply with more than one location. Funding may only support projects at locations that are eligible underserved areas.

Please refer to the eligibility section.

 

Can currently operating stores or projects apply?

Yes, funding can support currently operating food retail stores, food enterprises, and other ongoing projects and operations. Grant applications should be for a project associated with the existing operation that will preserve or expand the availability of healthy food at retail outlets.

 

Can start-up businesses apply?

Yes, new food enterprises, new retail stores and other kinds of start-up projects are eligible for funding.

 

Can funds be used to start a loan or grant fund to support the creation of healthy food retail in an underserved community?

No, funds from the HFFI Targeted Small Grants Program may not be used to create a loan or grant fund for healthy food retail. Nonprofits, intermediaries, and/or governments may apply in partnership with retailers and enterprises to undertake a discrete project to support healthy food access in underserved communities.

 

Are food banks, food shelves, or food pantries eligible?

No, food pantries and other charitable or free food distribution programs are not eligible for HFFI grant funding. To be eligible, retail projects must sell food and accept SNAP for payment. A food bank or pantry is an eligible applicant if they are proposing an eligible retail project or food enterprise project, as defined in the RFA.

Please refer to the eligibility section of the RFA for more details on eligible applicants and projects. 

 

Are projects in urban areas eligible? 

Yes, projects in urban and rural areas are eligible if they are located in an underserved area. You can look up the eligibility of your location using these guidelines and mapping tool.

 

What will the grant funding period be? 

The grant funding period should reflect the amount of time it will take you to complete your project. Grant periods can be up to 12 months for projects with no construction component, and up to 24 months that have a construction component. Grant periods should begin approximately when awards are made, in Spring 2022.

 

Does a retail outlet need to offer both staple and perishable foods to be eligible? 

Yes, a retailer must offer an assortment of staple and perishable foods to be eligible. Farmers markets that offer only produce will not be eligible. 

 

Is there a match requirement? 

No, there is no match requirement for this grant program. 

 

Can HFFI TSG be used as a match for other federal grant applications?

No, HFFI grant awards may not be used as match for other federal awards.

 

Can a retail store that also sells prepared food apply for this program? 

Yes, a retail store that also sells prepared or hot food may apply for this program, if it accepts or plans to accept SNAP benefits. To be eligible, applicants must plan to execute a project that expands or preserves the availability of staple and perishable foods.

 

Where can I find examples of successful previously funded projects? 

This is the first round of the Targeted Small Grants Program under the USDA-funded HFFI administered by Reinvestment Fund. The list of previous grantees, and projects that were selected to receive technical assistance, is available at www.investinginfood.com/impact. In the previous round, only retail projects were eligible for funding. This round is open to both retail and non-retail food enterprises. Additional examples of successful healthy food access projects that have received HFFI grants and loans from other federal, state, and local sources are available on the Healthy Food Access Portal.

 

What do I need to do to submit an LOI? 

Before you get apply, you can request a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number if your organization or business doesn’t already have one. It should not take more than a few business days to get your number. However, you should plan on requesting it at least a month before the application deadline because you will need that number for the first pre-application step.

You should also register your organization with the System for Award Management (SAM) if you aren’t already registered. The registration is free, but you need to complete several steps. It’s a good idea to start the registration process at least a month before any application deadline. Before you start the registration process, we suggest reading through the HELP materials available on the SAM website. Then, you will need to create an account. After you create your account by setting up a user ID and password, you can register your organization. Remember, you will need your DUNS number to complete your registration.

Then, you can submit your LOI online through Reinvestment Fund’s online grants portal. Instructions for how to register your organization and submit an LOI using the online grants portal are available here.

 

 

What happens after I submit my LOI? 

Reinvestment Fund will screen all LOIs for eligibility based on submission requirements, applicant eligibility, project location, and project types. Applicants will be contacted in August with the status of their LOI submission. Only eligible applicants will be invited to submit a full application. If you would like to prepare for the submission of your full application, requirements for the application are detailed in the RFA (when available). Please do not submit an application until you are invited to do so. 

 

How can I get questions about answered or get help using the online grants portal? 

By email: Please direct individual questions by email to help@investinginfood.com We will do our best to respond to all questions within 3-5 business days. 

Request a Phone Call: You may call 215-574-5862 and leave us a voicemail to request support by phone and we will do our best to call you back within 3-5 business days (Monday – Friday 9-5pm Eastern Time). Please leave a brief message including your name, phone number, and question, and best time to reach you. You can also reach us by email for more immediate responses. 

Webinar (recorded): An informational webinar was held Wednesday, October 13, 2021 from 2 – 3 PM ET.  The webinar included a walk-through of how to apply online using the grants portal, as well as an overview of information about the HFFI Targeted Small Grants program opportunity and application. Interested applicants can view the webinar recording at: https://bit.ly/HFFIWebinar101321

 

Is this program in Grants.gov?

No, you cannot apply for this program using grants.gov. Applications to this program will go through Reinvestment Fund’s online grants portal. Click here to apply now.

 

Can this grant pay for staffing costs / wages / labor / personnel?

Yes, personnel costs, including salaries, wages, and stipends, as well as construction labor are all eligible uses. For personnel costs, applicants should describe how grant funds will support a project that can demonstrate ongoing sustainability beyond the grant period.

 

Can I apply with two projects? What about multiple locations with the same project?

Each applicant can only submit one application. That application could include a project with multiple components, and/or multiple sites or locations. More successful projects with multiple components or locations will be those who demonstrate that the components are connected under a common theme.

 

Can I apply for support for a meals program, like CACFP, school food, or emergency meals during the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. While we recognize that there is great need for funding to support child nutrition, emergency meals, and support for food insecure families especially now during the pandemic, the HFFI TSG program is not able to support meals programs or emergency food. This program is only available to projects that are focused on providing food for retail sale.

 

How do fund disbursements work for awarded grantees?

Once organizations are awarded grant funds, they may access these funds throughout the grant cycle as advances and reimbursements. Grantees are required to provide invoices or quotes for all advances, and proof of payment for all purchases made with HFFI grant funds.

 

Can funds from this program be used alongside funds from another grant program?

Yes, we encourage applicants to seek additional outside funding when possible and necessary.

 

Can I submit letters of support?

We do not accept letters of support for LOIs. Selected LOIs will be invited to submit a full application.  You may submit letters of support along with your full application. Letters of support are not required, but are encouraged to be submitted as supplemental application materials.

 

Do organizations need to be formally incorporated in order to apply? Can I apply using a fiscal sponsor?

Yes, organizations must be legally incorporated, and must provide documentation of their legal status to apply. To be awarded a grant, an applicant must be legally incorporated, have an EIN/TIN and a DUNS number, as well as an active SAM registration. If an applicant doesn’t have an EIN/TIN, they may apply through a partner or a fiscal sponsor.

The organization that intends to hold the grant agreement with Reinvestment Fund if awarded the grant should be the applicant in SmartSimple. The Applicant Information and Attestations/Supplemental Questions in the LOI form should also be completed on behalf of the fiscal sponsor. You should describe your organization (who actually will be completing the project) in the project summary question of the LOI.

 

If your organization is not headquartered in an underserved area, but serves underserved areas, are you eligible?

Eligibility will be determined by the proposed physical project location (i.e. where project activities will take place), which must be located in an underserved area. The project location may differ from the organization’s headquarters.

 

Can an organization submit a LOI for more than one project? Can two partners each submit an application for the same project?

No, an organization should only submit one LOI per grant cycle. Each project should also only have one LOI submitted. Partners seeking funding for one project should have one partner submit a single application for that project.

 

Are restaurants eligible?

This program is not designed to support projects that are primarily focused on the sale of prepared, hot foods in a restaurant or takeaway setting to consumers, or for free congregate meals in a service setting. Prepared foods may be a component of an eligible food retail or food enterprise project that can also demonstrate how the proposed project will expand or preserve the availability of Staple and Perishable foods.

 

Which Letters of Interest will be invited to submit an application?

LOIs will be screened for eligibility for the program based on the eligibility criteria in the RFA. All LOIs determined to be eligible will be invited to submit a full application.

 

Are predevelopment studies like market studies eligible? Could an applicant use HFFI funds to do these studies for a commercial kitchen, food truck commissary, mobile market or similar business model?

Yes, predevelopment analysis, such as business model development, feasibility assessment, pro-forma development, market analysis, site location study, are eligible uses of grant funds, for any kind of eligible retail or food enterprise project.

 

Are food retail programs or initiatives eligible?

Food retailers, or food retail business models operated by any kind of organization, are eligible for HFFI TSG for a project to support that business model. Applicants seeking funding to administer programs and initiatives that are primarily consulting, technical assistance activities, educational activities, or other program initiatives that are primarily focused on efforts like supporting retailers or food enterprises, coordinating among them, or offering services to them will not be considered eligible.

 

 

If we request funds for land or building acquisition, or brick and mortar development, we need to have the specific site selected already?

Yes, you can apply for funds for a brick and mortar development even if you do not have site control or an identified site. However, your application will need to describe how you will select an eligible site and ensure that the site will be in an eligible Underserved area.  Furthermore, you will need to demonstrate that you will be able to complete the project within your proposed grant period if you do not have a site secured.

 

 

What does Technical Assistance consist of?

Technical Assistance (TA) will be available for selected eligible organizations that are in an early stage or planning phase of a food retail or food retail supply chain enterprise project. TA includes expert guidance that can further clarify and advance a project that supports HFFI goals and priorities. TA resources may include support with capacity building, identification of food access needs and potential interventions, project planning, market studies, feasibility studies, business planning, financial modeling, appraisals, and community or customer engagement.

 

 

How much detail is required in the budget section of the LOI?

In the LOI, the applicant will be asked for the total grant amount they are requesting and to identify the project categories which the grant funds will be used for. A detailed budget with specific dollar amounts for each category will not be requested unless the organization is invited to submit a full application.

 

 

What are the reporting requirements for this program?

Reinvestment Fund requires regular reporting of grant funds uses in order to request grant disbursements, as well as progress reporting at least semi-annually during the grant period. Please see PART VI—GRANT AWARD ADMINISTRATION of the RFA for details on documentation and reporting requirements for grantees.

 

Does a project have to have identified all funding sources before applying?

Applicants can apply if they need HFFI funding for a portion of a project, and may have a funding gap for the balance of project needs.  However, strong applications will demonstrate how they will be able to complete their project in full if they don’t have all needed funding or financing secured.

 

Can an applicant be granted HFFI grants in consecutive/multiple years, or is eligibility one-time when funded?

Because the HFFI program is designed to be one-time, catalytic funding to enable a sustainable project, it’s not a priority to fund existing or prior grantees in multiple funding rounds. Previous grantees are eligible to apply for the grant award again, although priority will be given to new projects in communities that have not already been served by HFFI funding.