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?

Currently, the program will 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 following eligible uses may include, but are 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.
 

What does “pre-development” costs entail?

Pre-development activities eligible for an HFFI grant include: market studies, feasibility studies, financial modeling, appraisals, consumer/customer surveys, cooperative governance support, architectural plans, environmental assessments, energy audit, succession planning, and financial and development consultants.

 

What if I don’t have a grocery store identified?

 The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is designed to support access to affordable, healthy foods in underserved areas.  Applicants must submit a project proposal for a healthy food retail project that accepts or will accept SNAP benefits.  Projects that don’t have a grocery store operator yet will be considered.

 

Are you offering grants or loans?

The current round of HFFI funding 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.

 

What are the forms required as part of this grant?

Additional information may be required from selected grantees in order to make a formal commitment to fund. Progress reports and financial reports will be required periodically from funded projects in order to meet regulatory compliance for federal grants. Sample forms are available at www.grants.gov.

 

I missed the webinars. Can I see a recording?

We held informational webinars on December 13, 2018 and January 8, 2019. The presentation is downloadable as a PDF, and video recordings of the presentations are available at: https://www.investinginfood.com/materials-from-december-13-informational-webinar/

 

Are food pantries eligible?

No, food pantries and other charitable or free food distribution programs are not eligible for HFFI grant funding. To be eligible, projects must sell food and accept SNAP for payment.

 

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?

Project periods can be up to 12 months for projects with no construction component, and up to 24 months that have a construction component.

 

Does a retailer 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.

 

Are food hubs eligible?

Food aggregation, warehousing, manufacturing, and/or distribution businesses are not eligible if they don’t have a retail outlet and accept SNAP for payment. Food retail projects that are associated with a food hub are eligible.

 

Is there a match requirement?

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

 

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.

 

Can a project accept WIC or fruit and vegetable incentive coupons to be eligible?

A project must accept or plan to accept SNAP to be eligible, but may accept WIC, incentives, or other food assistance benefits as well.

 

Does my project need to have a partnership with a community organization or local government, or include letters of support in my application?

Applicants are encouraged to seek and create partnerships with local organizations, such as academic institutions, community-based organizations, or local government entities for the purpose of providing additional resources and support to their project. However, partnerships are not required for the application. Letters of support or recommendation may be included in the application addendum but are not required.

 

Where can I find examples of successful previously funded projects?

This is the first round of funding under the USDA-funded HFFI grants program managed by Reinvestment Fund, so there are no examples of previously funded projects for this program. However, 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.

 

Are community gardens eligible?

Projects to support gardening and farming, as well as other forms of food production and manufacturing 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.

 

Can projects have more than one location?

Yes, projects may apply with more than one location. All locations must be in underserved areas.

 

Can currently operating stores or projects apply?

Yes, operating stores and currently running retail projects are eligible to apply. Grant applications should be for a project associated with the retail outlet to preserve or expand the availability of healthy food at retail outlets.

 

Can start-up or new stores or projects apply?

Yes, new stores and 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 this round of HFFI grant funding may not be used to create a loan or grant fund for healthy food retail. Nonprofits and/or governments may apply in partnership with retailers to support healthy food retail in underserved communities.

 

Is there a minimum size requirement for retail stores to be eligible?

No, retail stores of any size are eligible to apply.

 

Is the purchase or lease of a retail space an eligible use of funds?

Land and building acquisition are not eligible uses of funds. Construction is not an eligible use of funds.  Funds may be used for equipment purchases and for other soft costs associated with the purchase, leasing or build-out of a retail space.

 

What is considered to be a rural area?

For the purposes of this HFFI program, the term ‘rural area’ means the Rural Business Service’s Rural Area definition as outlined in Section 343(a)(13)(A)(i) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act.  This means a rural area is any area other than: (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants; and (2) any urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town.

 

Is there a fee to get a DUNS number or SAM registration?

No.  DUNS number assignment and SAM registration are free to all entities wishing to do business with the US Federal Government.  Using a search engine to find the SAM.gov website may bring up websites of private businesses that will register your organization in SAM for a fee.  Please remember that paying any fee is unnecessary to receive a DUNS number or to use SAM.gov.  Questions about SAM may be answered at  https://www.sam.gov/SAM/pages/public/index.jsf

 

Is there a maximum for indirect or overhead costs in budget proposals?

If your budget includes indirect, overhead, or administrative costs, please keep that cost category to 10% of your overall budget.

 

Is there a deadline for applying for technical assistance?

Yes. If you wish to be considered for the technical assistance program in 2019, please submit a TA intake form by March 15, 2019.