Funds to Improve Access to Healthy Foods in Underserved Areas
The USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (USDA) is requesting applications for America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative Targeted Small Grants Program (HFFI TSG Program) with a funding availability of at least $4 million and awards ranging from $20,000 to $200,000.
The deadline to submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) for this program is December 7, 2021; eligible applicants will be invited to submit a full application in January 2022. Full applications will be due 45 days after invitations are sent.
What is the purpose of the HFFI TSG Program? The purpose of the HFFI TSG program is to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas, to create and preserve quality jobs, and to revitalize low-income communities by providing financial and technical assistance to eligible fresh, healthy food retailers, and enterprises to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas.
For the purposes of this program, healthy foods are defined as nutrient-dense foods and beverages as set forth in the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. This includes health-promoting beverages and foods – including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry that are prepared with little to no added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and provide vitamins and minerals. (See USDA Dietary Guidelines here.)
The program will support projects aiming to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program could assist a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets.
Who is eligible to apply? The HFFI TSG program will provide grants to eligible organizations in eligible underserved areas (see page 8 of the Request for Applications or RFA for more information on eligible underserved area locations) to implement a project that is designed to improve access to fresh, healthy food through food retail.
Eligible organizations include:
- For-profit business enterprises (including a corporation, limited liability company, sole proprietor, public benefit corporation)
- Cooperatively-owned businesses
- Tax-exempt nonprofit corporations
- Institutions of higher education
- State and local governments and governmental agencies, authorities, commissions and food policy councils
- Tribal governments and tribal governmental agencies, authorities, and food policy councils
Individuals are not eligible.
What are eligible project costs? Proposed project costs could include (but are not limited to):
- Predevelopment: Projects should be ready for implementation or shovel-ready when applying for HFFI TSG Program grant funding, but grant needs can include predevelopment and soft costs, including market analysis, site location analysis, appraisals, architectural or design assistance, training, or other contractual or consulting uses.
- Brick and Mortar Facility Development: Hard capital costs including land or building acquisition; construction; and fixtures, furniture, and equipment for the construction, renovation, or expansion of a brick and mortar facility.
- Other capital needs: Hard costs for the creation, retrofit, expansion, or other one-time investment in capital needs for a retail operation or enterprise that isn’t for facility, including vehicles, machinery, equipment, technology, software, purchase of existing business assets, a one-time investment in inventory or raw materials, or other.
- Other soft costs: One-time soft costs such as training, consumer/community engagement, governance support, financial or development consultants, project management, marketing and merchandising work, environmental/energy assessments, food safety assistance, project learning and/or impact assessment, and other one-time soft costs that contribute to preserving or expanding access to food retail.
What are some examples of eligible projects? Examples of eligible projects include, but are not limited to:
- A retailer or developer might seek grant funding as a portion of an overall capital project to build a new grocery store or renovate a portion of an existing store, in order to retain or expand access to full-service grocery stores in an underserved area.
- A community-based nonprofit organization or cooperative might seek funding for predevelopment and materials to develop an alternative or non-traditional retail distribution model such as a pop-up retail outlet in a low-population community that has limited access to fresh foods.
- A retail applicant might seek funds to expand e-commerce or delivery options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A food enterprise applicant might seek funding for equipment to expand their produce distribution company in order to improve and expand food access at a number of retail outlets.
Projects must plan to expand or preserve the availability of staple and perishable foods in underserved areas with low- and moderate-income populations; and if the project involves retail sales, accept or plan to accept benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) established under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 USC 2011 et. Seq.).
What are the funding levels for this program? At least $4,000,000 is available for grants for the 2021 HFFI TSG program. Grant awards may be from $20,000 to $200,000. USDA anticipates making a total of 20-30 grant awards. Total funding may be increased, and more grants awarded, if additional funds become available.
Is there a cost-sharing or match requirement? There is no requirement of matching contributions or cost sharing for awarded funds.
What is the project duration? Projects may take up to 12 months if they do not involve construction; projects that include construction may take up to 24 months.
When are applications due? The LOI is the first step in the RFA process and is required for all applicants to express interest in grant funding from the HFFI TSG Program. LOIs will be reviewed to determine applicant eligibility for the program. LOIs are due no later than December 7, 2021 at 11:59 pm Eastern Time.
Only eligible projects will be invited to submit a full application; applicants will be contacted no earlier than January 2022 on the status of their LOI submission. Full applications will be due 45 days after the invitation to submit.
The Request for Applications can be found here.
For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 530-893-4764.