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Louisiana Launches Program to Expand Fresh Food Access 

March 13, 2019

Communities Affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to Benefit 

Baton Rouge, La. ( March 13, 2019) – Today, the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority (LAFA) and Hope Enterprise Corporation (HOPE) announced the launch of Louisiana’s Healthy Food Retail Program (HFRP), which will award $800,000 worth of flexible financing with low-interest rates to supermarkets and grocery stores that are operating in or expanding to underserved communities in Louisiana affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.  The funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the State of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development.  The program will provide flexible financing to enable operators to open, renovate, or expand retail outlets that sell healthy food.

The HFRP was established by the Louisiana Legislature in 2009 to increase access to affordable, healthy food to improve diets and health; to promote the sale and consumption of Louisiana-grown fresh fruits and vegetables; and to support expanded economic opportunities in low-income and rural communities.

Eligible projects include grocery chains, individual grocery stores, neighborhood stores, co-ops and other food retail projects such as farmers markets and food hubs. HFRP funds will be used to help vendors purchase furnishings to increase the inventory and sale of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as provide for equipment installations and upgrades.

HOPE, LAFA under the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), Market Umbrella (MU), and The Food Trust (TFT) are partners in administering the program and are excited about the benefits it will bring to Louisiana residents.

“This program directly addresses the fact that too many Louisiana residents do not have access to the fresh, nutritious foods they need to live healthy lives,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum. “HOPE is excited about the opportunity to assist healthy food operators in delivering more nutritious options, and the infrastructure improvements and jobs created will also contribute to the improved health and vitality of the area.”  HOPE, the administrator for the program, is a community development financial institution with a mission to strengthen communities, build assets and improve lives in economically distressed areas of the Deep South by providing access to high quality financial products and related services.

The Food Trust, a national non-profit organization, has been working with local partners in Louisiana on efforts to increase grocery access since 2007. President and CEO Yael Lehmann said, “”People should have healthy food choices no matter where they live. We are so excited to see the state of Louisiana making a crucial investment in the health and economic well-being of its residents through the Healthy Food Retail Program.”

“Market Umbrella is committed to expanding access to fresh and local produce.  We are excited to work with our partners to deliver this funding to areas in Louisiana that desperately need it,” said Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Parker, Ph.D.  Market Umbrella’s mission is cultivating the field of public markets for public good.  Market Umbrella provides technical assistance to farmers markets, food incubators, and food enterprises.

“Everyone deserves to have fresh, affordable food made available to them. Access to healthy foods in underserved communities, or “food deserts” as these areas are often called, is a need I am happy to see come to fruition. The LDAF will work closely with all involved to ensure the success of this program,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

“What a wonderful opportunity for our communities where access to fresh fruits and vegetables will be provided via this grant. I am extremely excited to have played a small role in securing funding for the Healthy Food Program and to see this opportunity become a reality,” said Representative Patricia Haynes Smith.  “Eliminating the food deserts in many of our communities is tantamount to keeping our citizens healthy as well as to boost the economy of our small retail vendors and farmers. This is indeed a first step to a Healthy Louisiana and I thank all of the partners who worked together to make this happen.”

Louisiana has had success in prior healthy food financing initiatives, including New Orleans’ Fresh Food Retailer Initiative launched in 2011 to attract grocery stores, local markets, and other fresh food providers to lower income communities.

Who Can Apply?

For qualifying applicants, the HFRP provides flexible, customized financing for costs associated with opening or expanding businesses that bring healthy groceries to Louisiana residents in parishes affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The amount and type of loan depends on the project’s size, the borrower’s need, and the expected impact.

Eligible applicants:

  • Grocery stores
  • Corner stores
  • Food co-ops that are open to the public
  • Farmers markets and mobile markets
  • Food hubs
  • Real estate developers that will lease space to a grocery retail tenant

For an application and more information, please visit our Healthy Food Financing webpage at www.hopecu.org/hfrp. You can also contact Kathy C. Saloy at HOPE at 504-585-2860 or hfrp@hopecu.org.

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