Healthy Food Access Portal Profiles & Research Spotlights

Learn more about successful projects and research studies advancing healthy food access in the community:

State & Local Policy Efforts

Mid South Healthy Food Initiative

Administered by Hope Enterprise Corporation in partnership with The Food Trust, the Mid South Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a regional healthy food financing program that offers offers flexible financing for new store development and renovations, as well as training with retailers to promote healthier choices projects across three states in the Mid South region. The initiative started in New Orleans but has grown to support grocery projects in urban areas across Mississippi, Louisiana and the greater Memphis area. The program was developed through the support of $3 million in initial seed funding from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which was leveraged further by  the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative. For more information about the program, visit the program website here.

New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative

Storm damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced many New Orleans healthy food retailers to close their doors – further exacerbating resident’s struggles to access healthy food. Six-years after Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans launched the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) to increase healthy food access in underserved areas. This program provides direct financial assistance to retail businesses by awarding forgivable and/or low-interest loans to supermarkets and other fresh food retailers. The City has partnered with The Food Trust and HOPE Enterprise Corporation (HOPE), a community-development financial institution and Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) grantee, to implement the program. The program was seeded with $7 million of federal Disaster Community Development Block Grant funds that have already leveraged millions in additional public and private funding for grocery projects.

As of early 2015, FFRI helped to finance three large-scale projects that will have a significant impact on New Orleans in terms of fresh food access, job creation, and community revitalization: Circle Food Store, ReFresh/Whole Foods, and Dryades Public Market. Advise changing to "As of late 2018, FFRI has helped to finance several projects that will have a significant impact on New Orleans in terms of fresh food access, job creation, and community revitalization, including: ReFresh/Whole Foods, Dryades Public Market, and Robert Fresh Market (could add link if needed).

Policy Efforts to Watch: Louisiana Healthy Food Retail Act
Concurrent with the implementation of the FFRI, statewide advocacy efforts led to the passing of the Healthy Food Retail Act in 2009. The legislation created the structure for a financing program that would provide grants and loans to supermarkets, farmers' markets and food retail providers to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved communities across the state of Louisiana.  Advocates of the Healthy Food Retail Act, including Together LouisianaMarket UmbrellaTulane University’s Prevention Research Center and The Food Trust, among others, have been working together to get funding allocated for the program.

  • Check out this video from Together Louisiana 2015 Statewide Assembly where residents, community leaders and government officials speak to the importance of and support for the Healthy Food Retail Act.

Background and Advocacy

In 2007, healthy food stakeholders presented information to the New Orleans City Council about how limited access plagued communities post-Katrina. The Council voted unanimously to convene the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee to directly address this issue and generate a list of recommendations to improve access to healthy food in the city. One key response to the committee’s recommendations was the creation of the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI).

For a full understanding of Healthy Food Financing Initiatives from advocacy to implementation, see The Food Trust’s Healthy Food Financing Handbook.

Federal Policy Efforts

ASI is a low income designated CDFI serving more than 80,000 Louisiana residents and business owners. The majority of ASI’s financing takes place within the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner MSA. Chartered in 1961, it has grown to include over 75,000 members, making it the largest Louisiana-based credit union in terms of membership.

ASI Federal Credit Union (ASI) is using HFFI financing for the Healthy Foods Revolving Loan Fund, which was created in 2011 in partnership with the CDFI Fund to strengthen the healthy food distribution network in the New Orleans area. In 2011, ASI was one of 12 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) awarded grant funds to serve food deserts. The New Orleans Food Co-op, located in the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Ave., is one of the first businesses ASI partnered with to eliminate food deserts in the area. The co-op has remained committed to providing access to healthy food at a fair price with a focus on local and regional food production in the 66 census tracts identified as food deserts in New Orleans.

Projected Impacts

  • Financed the city’s first food co-op
  • Financed a new grocery chain flagship headquarters
  • Financed several smaller food access projects

Source of money: HFFI CDFI-Financial Assistance Program; Fiscal year(s): 2011, 2012

Hope Enterprise Corporation (HOPE) is a community development financial institution that provides affordable financial services and leverages private, public and philanthropic resources to fulfill its mission of strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed parts of the Deep South. Since 1994, HOPE has generated over $2 billion in financing and related services for the unbanked and under banked, entrepreneurs, homeowners, nonprofit organizations, health care providers and other community development purposes. Collectively, these projects have benefited more than 1 million individuals throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. 

Given the Mid South’s historic lack of grocery stores in small towns and cities and the decline in grocery stores in low-income and urban areas, HOPE has provided over $42 million in financing for healthy food retail projects. 

The financing provided through HOPE’s partnership with the city of New Orleans’ Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) has improved food access in food deserts. Prior to Katrina, New Orleans had one of the highest concentrations of food deserts in the country. Additionally, access to healthy food was disparate based on the racial demographics of neighborhoods within the city. Ten years after the storm, a study conducted by Tulane University found that the number of food deserts had declined significantly and that both African American communities and white communities had similar access to healthy foods. The authors of the study cited the FFRI as one major factor contributing to closing this equity gap. Hope was first selected in 2011 by the City of New Orleans to manage the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative – which provides grants and loan funding to fresh food retailers in underserved areas – HOPE has financed fresh food retail projects exceeding $42 million, and has developed over 179,000 square feet in additional grocery store space to help expand access to healthy food in low-income and underserved communities. HOPE has assisted 61 projects; provided financing to several retailers; and leveraged $38 million in non-city funds. 

HFFI Projects & Impacts
BCC Leverage (Whole Food), New Orleans, LA

  • Urban area grocery store
  • $17,968,992 Leveraged
  • 22,000 Square Feet
  • Total Project cost: $18.9 Million; Funds were used for construction costs.

Circle Food Store – New Orleans, LA

  • Urban area grocery store
  • $11,400,000 Leveraged
  • 17,000 Square Feet
  • Total Project cost: $9.2 Million
  • Funds were used for construction costs.

Jack and Jake's ( Dryades Public Market), New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Urban area grocery store
  • $11,400,000 Leveraged
  • 22,000 Square Feet
  • Total Project cost: $3.4 Million
  • Funds were used to purchase equipment.

Marketfare LLC, Roberts Fresh Market, New Orleans, LA Urban

  • $2MM leveraged; $11.5MM used for construction costs, equipment, and inventory
  • 23,140 sq. ft.

Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) is using HFFI funding to provide financing and technical assistance to food markets located in, or planning to locate in, low- to-moderate-income communities that lack access to affordable, healthy food. LIIF has funded projects in Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Some of the funds from the award were used to support the transformation of a 65,000-square-foot abandoned supermarket in New Orleans into the ReFresh Market, an integrated healthy food center. LIIF has invested over $2.3 billion in capital, serving over 2 million people and generating over $59 billion in family and societal benefits.

  • Total amount financed for healthy food projects: $52 million
  • Total amount leveraged: $199.5 million
  • Total amount of dollars granted: $3.225 million
  • Total amount of square footage: 651,251
  • Total amount of people served: 217,084

HFFI Project and Impacts

  • ReFresh, New Orleans
    • 65,000 square foot abandoned building transformed into a mixed-use community hub
    • $19 million in total project costs
    • $1 million in total funds provided by the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative$1.5 million total funds from LIIF's HFFI allocation
    • $500,000 forgivable loan component
    • 25,000 sq. ft. food retail space
    • Over 20,000 residents in surrounding area served by store, of which 50% are low-to-moderate income

Source of money: HFFI CDFI-Financial Assistance Program; Fiscal year(s): 2011, 2013, 2014