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Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative

Core Elements

This section outlines the aspects of an intervention that are central to its theory and logic and that are thought to be responsible for the intervention’s effectiveness.  Core elements are critical features of the intervention’s intent and design and should be kept intact when the intervention is implemented or adapted. 

  1. Partner with a Food Access Organization: The Food Trust originated the supermarket campaign model, which is the name given to the process by which the Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) was formed. An organization focused on the issue of food access is needed to cultivate critical stakeholders and ultimately unite leaders from diverse sectors around the problem.

  2. Use GIS mapping to build an evidence base to make the case for change: Policymakers and other key stakeholders need current, relevant data to understand the scope and severity of the food access problem. The Food Trust’s approach is to generate GIS maps and issue a report at the state or regional level (or both) that shows the following: 1) locations of existing supermarkets, 2) volume of supermarket sales per capita, 3) distribution of household income, and 4) rates of diet-related death. Local academic institutions have been contracted to generate the GIS maps.

  3. Create a Task Force: The role of the task force is to examine the barriers to supermarket development and to generate policy recommendations.  InPennsylvania, The Food Trust led the development of the task force, while, in other states the effort was undertaken by both The Food Trust and a second local agency. The partner agencies convened the task force, but co-chairs, not affiliated with these agencies, were selected to moderate the meetings and provide strategic guidance to the process. One co-chair was selected to represent the supermarket industry (e.g., a Grocery Association leader) and a second to represent the civic sector (e.g., executive director of the localUnited Way).  Task force members were carefully selected to include strong representation from executive level decision-makers from the supermarket industry, along with local health and children’s advocates, economic development officials, and community leaders.  In 12 months, four task force meetings were held.

  4. Generate a broad base of support for the supermarket program among diverse stakeholders: The initiative addresses:  a) public health advocates’ concerns over ways to increase consumption of fresh produce and limit diet-related disease in populations with limited access to fresh foods; b) community and economic development leaders’ concerns regarding stimulating economic development, increasing business in distressed neighborhoods, and countering the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and its associated health care costs; c) supermarket industry’s interest in financial incentives to support operators’ expansion into underserved neighborhoods where their stores will be profitable; and d) communities’ desire to attract nearby, high quality supermarkets. Community buy-in and support is critical to build new stores in underserved areas.

  5. Educate elected officials: City and state-level hearings help make the case for urgent action and present an opportunity to educate elected officials about the issue and about the success inPennsylvania.  Identify program champions who can help move the policy through the political process, secure funding appropriations, and, when task force reports are released, invite the media.

  6. Create a public-private partnership to manage the program: The public-private partnership should include: a) a financial intermediary or Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) (e.g., The Reinvestment Fund) to aggregate private capital and to finance projects and b) a public health advocacy organization (e.g., The Food Trust), knowledgeable about food access issues in low-income communities.  The administration of the fund by a financial intermediary enables the partnership to leverage the public allocation with private sector funds to maximize the program’s impact.

  7. Ensure program flexibility: The PA FFFI has been able to support a broad range of fresh food retail projects including supermarkets, small grocery stores, and farmers markets due to the flexibility of program funds.  Grants and loans can be used for a variety of purposes including acquisition, construction, equipment, workforce training, and security costs to meet the needs of a diverse applicant base.  CDFIs, like The Reinvestment Fund, are able to react quickly to changes or needs in the marketplace and are critical for the management of program funding.

  8. Market the program to experienced operators, wholesalers, and community leaders: After legislation is passed, local communities and industry representatives will need to be educated about the availability of funds and to have access to technical assistance to complete applications. Experienced operators are sought to ensure markets enjoy strong management and long term profitability. Owners of smaller stores are provided assistance as needed in the completion of detailed financial and eligibility applications.