Health/Wellness Produce Southeast

Louisiana Launches Program To Expand Fresh Food Access

fresh healthy food

Grocery stores and supermarkets operating in expanding or underserved communities affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike can get flexible financing from the state of Louisiana and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Healthy Food Retail Program (HFRP).

HFRP, offered through the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority and the Hope Enterprise Corp., awards $800,000 in financing to qualifying businesses.

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, promote the sale and consumption of Louisiana-grown fresh fruits and vegetables, and 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. Funds will be used to help vendors purchase furnishings to increase the inventory and sale of fresh fruits and vegetables, or provide for equipment installations and upgrades.

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.

“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,” Bill Bynum, HOPE CEO said. “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.”

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.

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 include grocery stores, corner stores, food co-ops open to the public, food hubs, farmers markets and mobile markets, and real estate developers that will lease space to a grocery retail tenant.

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