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Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative

Potential Public Health Impact

Reach: This program has the potential to efficiently reach a large number of the low- to moderate-income populations as it aims to increase the geographic access and availability of healthy foods in underserved areas in both urban and rural parts ofPennsylvania.

Effectiveness: Data available at the time of the review show that 69 stores in both urban and rural parts ofPennsylvania have been built/renovated due to the FFFI.  This has resulted in increased access to and a variety of affordable fresh produce. 

Adoption: Other states (New York,Louisiana,Illinois, andNew Jersey) have adopted similar policies. Illinois andNew York have each invested $10 million to create statewide fresh food retail financing programs modeled on the Pennsylvania FFFI; they are the Illinois Fresh Food Fund and the New York Healthy Food, Healthy Communities Program.  The city ofNew Orleans has invested $7 million of federal Community Development Block Grant recovery funds to create the Fresh Food Retail Incentive Program.  These recently created programs are expected to retain the core elements of thePennsylvania model including a public-private partnership structure with a food access organization and a CDFI partner, a focus on fresh food retail development, and a flexible program structure.  These programs are in the early stages of implementation in the various jurisdictions, and there may be some variation in the eligibility criteria and application processes. 

Implementation: Strong public-private partnerships are needed to assist with the formative work, advocacy and enactment process, allocation and management of funds and implementation process.

While this initiative does require many years of committed efforts from multiple stakeholders, the policy could be implemented as intended (with fidelity) if funds are available and if strong collaborations across different groups and established networks within local communities exist.

Maintenance: The FFFI was created in 2004 and has been distributing loans/grants ever since.  While the FFFI currently depends on state funding and does offer some grants, it was designed to be a sustainable program through the interest paid back on loans by store operators.