Getting Started

Are you beginning to think about starting a project, business, or policy effort in your community? If so, check out these assessment tools to help you learn about how to get involved in your community, launch a business, or fund your project. 

See additional resources and assessment tools to help you begin:

Communities and policymakers across the country are implementing innovative programs and strategies to improve access to healthy food in underserved communities. Visit the Take Action: Influence Public Policy section for a series of questions that serve as a guide as you begin building support for healthy food access in your community through policy and other efforts.

For more in-depth information about different retail strategies and business models, go to the Business Models section of this portal, which describes in detail different retail efforts, ranging from grocery stores and farmers’ markets to food hubs, co-ops, and mobile markets. This section also has information on how to best market healthy products in food retail outlets.

Today, more grant, loan, and incentive opportunities exist than ever before to help you build, renovate, or plan for healthy food projects in your community. Some funds are specifically dedicated to funding projects that improve access to healthy foods, while other resources require you to make the case that your project meets the funder’s objectives. Below are a series of questions that you are likely to be asked when seeking healthy food financing funds, or other grants, loans, and incentives for your project. Check out the Financing section under Launch a Business for more information. 

  • Is the project located in any of the following: an underserved community, a low-income community, a community with high unemployment, or a medically underserved area? This may qualify your project for certain types of funding. If you are unsure whether the project is located in an underserved community, see how underserved communities are defined or map your community using the Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) tool.
  • Do you have a business plan, market study, or feasibility analysis that sets out financial details of your project? If not, extensive resources are available on how to write a business plan under Becoming an Entrepreneur, including the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website. Locate and visit one of SBA’s Small Business Development Centers. These centers provide a variety of technical assistance services to small businesses, nonprofits, and aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Have you thought about the characteristics of potential customers within the target area by race, age, ethnicity, and income levels?Demographic data can show a potential funder that your project will help economically disadvantaged communities or vulnerable populations. To identify these customer characteristics for your market area, go to Research Your Community.
  • Do you have experience in fresh food retail? If not, you may want to bring in an experienced operator, developer, or manager. See the Business Models section under Launch a Business for additional information. 
  • Do you have plans to put any money of your own into the business or project? It helps to show a potential funder that you have “skin in the game.” 
  • Do you have any fundraising or financing plans or commitments in place to pay for some portion of the project? In most cases, several different grants, loans, or other financial incentives will need to be combined to finance your project successfully.
  • Do you have local community, business, and/or government support? To learn how to build and gather support, go to the Influence Public Policy and Policy Efforts & Impacts sections under Take Action.
  • If you have identified a potential site for your project, do you have a lease, option to buy, or agreement of sale? Many lenders want to see evidence of site control before they will make a loan or invest in your project. 
  • Does your project face any property-related challenges? Obstacles such as zoning, building permits, licensing approvals, soil contamination, or community opposition can delay implementation and impact your ability to get funding.

Several general guides describe potential funding sources for healthy food businesses, include: