Food Desert Fund Distributes $6 Million

NEW YORK — The New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities (HFHC) Fund, a three-year, public/private program launched in late 2010, has thus far provided $6.14 million — $4.86 million in loans and $1.28 million in grants — to seven supermarket projects aimed at improving access to nutritious food for 24,000 people in underserved communities throughout New York state, according to the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) here.

LIIF, the lead administrator of the program, has $30 million to disburse to food retailers in low-income communities without adequate access to fresh foods — known as food deserts — including $26.6 million in loans and $3.4 million in grants. The funding was provided by Empire State Development ($10 million) and Goldman Sachs Group ($20 million).

The HFHC Fund has invested in a variety of projects in New York towns and cities, including Mount Vernon, Highland Falls, Conklin, Buffalo, Red Creek and in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, which also received tax incentives through FRESH (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health). The fund’s investments have so far supported 67,500 square feet of new, improved or preserved food retail space and created or preserved more than 200 jobs.

LIIF and its partners, including The Reinvestment Fund and the Food Trust, made several standalone grant awards in the first year of the program. However, due to limited grant resources, “LIIF is now only making HFHC grant awards in conjunction with HFHC loans,” said Katie Scallon, program manager for HFHC at LIIF.

The Mount Vernon, N.Y., store is an existing, independently owned Foodtown that received $1.6 million in financing from the HFHC Fund to complete a full renovation and expansion by late summer. The Staten Island store, a Key Food that will open this fall, received $3.78 million in HFHC financing to expand a vacant 6,000-square-foot building to 9,000 square feet.

“The recent financing for the Foodtown in Mount Vernon and the Key Food in Staten Island are the type of projects the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund was created to support,” said Kimberly Latimer-Nelligan, LIIF’s chief operating officer and executive vice president of community investments and programs. “They are providing residents with access to fresh, healthy food options and creating jobs for New Yorkers. We are excited continue to work across the state to invest in more projects like these going forward.”