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    Banks Expanding Access to Healthy Foods

    New Markets Tax Credit investments go to fund grocery stores in food deserts

    U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. (USBCDC), a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, and Chase, the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co., will each make use of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program to support separate projects that will improve access to fresh, healthy food for residents in underserved communities across the country. The funding will additionally help create new jobs and stimulate local economic development in low-income areas.

    “Access to healthy food is a critical problem for millions of Americans,” noted Matt Philpott, director of new markets, historic and renewable energy tax credit investments for St. Louis-based USBCDC. “While we are proud to have a strong record of investing in projects that promote healthy outcomes, we agree that there should be broader effort to invest in businesses that will address this issue. By working with our valued partners across the country and leveraging the United States Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and the Department of Treasury’s capabilities and resources, we believe we can make great strides to accomplish this collective goal with the NMTC program.”

    “We know that healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables and organic foods, will contribute to the health of individuals and families -- and, as a result, neighborhoods -- so we encourage grocers and others to identify projects that would benefit from New Markets Tax Credit financing,” said Martin Cox, the head of community development banking at Chase, part of New York-based JPMorgan Chase. “Together, we can reduce the number of neighborhoods without enough healthy choices in urban America.”

    The country’s most active NMTC investor, USBCDC has already teamed with partners to back similar projects that focus on healthy living and food-focused businesses, including a Save-A-Lot grocery store in Pagedale, Mo., the first retail project built in the community for decades, and a Fresh Grocer in the nation’s oldest African-American-owned shopping center, which brought 225 new jobs to north Philadelphia.

    USBCDC’s commitment aligns with the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a partnership among the USDA, Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Treasury. To address the needs of communities currently lacking nutritious options by providing financial and technical assistance to community development entities (CDEs), community development financial institutions, other nonprofits, and businesses. According to the USDA, more than 23 million people currently live in low-income communities that don’t have access to a supermarket or large grocery store within 1 mile of their home.

    One of the largest investors in the new tax credit industry, Chase will work with tax credit recipients to find viable projects that will enhance access to healthy fare mainly in urban food deserts. Tax credits will go to provide subsidy to encourage supermarket to construct and improve facilities in these communities. Most projects will concern grocery stores, but Chase is also considering innovative ways to distribute more nutritious foods in challenged communities.

    Among Chase’s past projects in this vein involve food banks, soup kitchens, community facilities and grocery stores across the country.

    Created in 2000 and administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund), the NMTC program spurs investment of private-sector capital into distressed communities by providing a tax credit to corporate or individual taxpayers who make qualified equity investments in designated CDEs. The CDEs, in turn, invest the capital raised into projects and businesses in low-income communities.

    The recently released 2011 New Markets Tax Credits application from the CDFI Fund asked applicants for the first time to detail how they would use allocations of the tax credits to finance healthy food projects.

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