Food retailers in Pennsylvania like Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market, who make the extra effort to ensure customers in depressed communities have healthy food options, can find help to defray some of the costs of reaching those most needy consumers.
Grants are available through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (PA FFFI), a program that invests in new or expanding grocery stores and other healthy food retail outlets in under-resourced communities throughout the state.
The three-store Sprankle’s chain took advantage of the funding last year for its stores in Kittanning and Saxonburg.
“Feeding our community is the most honorable thing a grocer can strive to do,” said Doug Sprankle, owner of the Saxonburg location. “PA FFFI is the vessel that helps create that opportunity.”
Several private and public organizations have partnered for the statewide initiative, which is overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, administered by The Food Trust and supported by program partners Reinvestment Fund, Bridgeway Capital and Community First Fund. The PA FFFI offers one-time grants or loans to food retailers to increase the availability of healthy and affordable food options for residents in under-resourced communities.
“We know that healthier communities create healthier economies,” said Mark Edwards, CEO of The Food Trust, “and research shows that the development or presence of a grocery store not only improves access to healthy foods but also creates jobs and stimulates additional investment. That’s why we’re so excited to be stewarding a new round of funding for the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative.”
The PA FFFI originally operated from 2004 to 2010, under Reinvestment Fund’s administration and with support from The Food Trust, and funded nearly 90 projects with over $85 million in loans and grants approved in that period. Since the re-launch of the program in the fall of 2018, 22 additional projects in Pennsylvania have received funding from the PA FFFI, with recipients ranging from large-scale grocers in urban areas to smaller neighborhood stores in rural communities.
Multiple Eligible Uses for Grants, Loans
One-time grants of up to $50,000 are available for eligible projects, as well as additional loans and business assistance. In the past, grants have supported predevelopment costs; land assembly, including demolition and environmental remediation; site development; infrastructure improvement, including renovation; new construction or adaptive reuse; equipment purchases that improve the availability and quality of fresh produce; and innovative food access technology that assists the healthy food access efforts of an existing or new grocery store.
Sprankle’s is a member of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, a statewide trade association that advocates the views of nearly 800 convenience stores, supermarkets, independent grocers, wholesalers and consumer product vendors.
While advocacy for those members best interests is the focus of the PFMA’s job, the organization takes seriously its responsibility to the community at-large as well as to members who work to reach the most needy citizens with healthy and quality foods.
“We represent many members through PFMA who are working hard to deliver fresh food options in low-income communities,” said Alex Baloga, PFMA president and CEO. “These grants through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative will help our members overcome potential financial barriers as they work to address the need for healthy and affordable food for their customers.”
PFMA members operate more than 4,000 stores and employ more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians.
Food retailers looking for more information on eligibility and how to apply can visit thefoodtrust.org/pafffi. Program partners review applications on a rolling basis and provide financing as funds remain available.