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Gov. David A. Paterson of New York said this week that he was making $30 million available for the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities (HFHC) Fund to finance the construction of grocery stores in underserved areas. Overseen by Empire State Development (ESD), the fund includes a $20 million commitment from the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and a $10 million commitment from ESD.
Referring to the public-private partnership as “a major step forward in ensuring the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” Paterson added: “As part of the state’s broader Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund provides financing for infrastructure costs and credit needs not typically filled by conventional financial institutions. Through this unique model, the fund will increase the supply of affordable, fresh food in underserved areas; improve the diets and health outcomes of the State’s residents; and spur economic development in these neighborhoods.”
Additional funding will come from the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), which is providing $300,000 to cover expenses related to technical assistance and program administration. Paterson designated state funding for the HFHC program in the 2009-10 state budget. The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), together with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and The Food Trust, was chosen via an RFP to administer the fund.
“Gov. Paterson created the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative in 2009 to respond to the lack of access to affordable, nutritious, fresh food in underserved communities,” noted ESD chairman and CEO Dennis M. Mullen. “The governor came to ESD because our commitment doesn’t start and end with businesses. Improving New York’s economy includes the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers. By working with LIIF, we are not only increasing access to healthy food in the neighborhoods that need it, we are also creating jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods.”
Around 1.7 million New Yorkers, including 750,000 in New York City, live in neighborhoods with limited access to stores carrying nutritious food options or fresh groceries. By providing grants and loans to encourage food retailers to increase the supply of affordable fresh food in such areas, the HFHC hopes to offer more healthful choices to the state’s residents. The initiative will create about 382 construction jobs, and create or retain more than 3,000 direct jobs.
Grants will range from $5,000 to $500,000 and loans from $250,000 to $5 million and up for New Markets Tax Credit transactions. Fund participants can use the capital for predevelopment, acquisition or construction activities, or as a term loan. LIIF and its partners will also work with borrowers to further leverage the fund’s loans to attract additional capital.
As NYSHealth president and CEO James R. Knickman noted, “Ensuring access to affordable, nutritious foods is essential to keeping New Yorkers healthy, reducing obesity and preventing the onset of illnesses like diabetes.”