Healthy Food for Ohio launches
At two launch events last Monday, access to healthy, affordable food became one step closer to reality for many of Ohio’s food deserts. A public-private partnership has created a pool of nearly $10 million – with more dollars possible – that will provide loans and grants to develop retail groceries in low-income, underserved communities across the state.
The pooled dollars come from a variety of sources, including a $2 million state budget allocation as well as from the federal government and individual banks. Through a competitive application process overseen by the Finance Fund, grants and loans will be available “for costs associated with land acquisition, predevelopment, construction, equipment, infrastructure and related expenses as well as credit needs not typically filled by conventional financial institutions.” The Finance Fund anticipates funding 5 – 10 projects that will overcome the barriers of opening or developing retail stores. Ohio joins 10 other states with similar projects.
The fund grew out of the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Task Force that mapped nearly 1 million Ohio residents – including one-quarter of a million children – living in areas without sufficient access to healthy foods. See the report.
U.S. Representative Steve Stivers, who spoke at one of the launch events, applauded the partnership and its potential to impact areas like Vinton County, which has not had a grocery store since 2013; county residents must travel 30 miles to Athens to get fresh food. “I hope this program will help not only Vinton County but also other food deserts,” Rep. Stivers concluded.
Echoing his remarks, Ohio Representative Ryan Smith – who was instrumental in getting state funds allocated to the project – said “Access to healthy food is important to battle chronic disease, healthier Ohio citizens and a positive driver in workforce and economic development. I feel confident this program will be successful.”
Philanthropy played a strong role in getting the project to this exciting new stage, including funding reports and serving on the task force. David Ciccone of Central Ohio United Way co-chaired the task force, and these other Philanthropy Ohio members served and supported its work:
- The Cleveland Foundation
- The Columbus Foundation
- The George Gund Foundation
- Interact for Health
- Ohio Association of Foodbanks
- Ohio Children’s Foundation
- Saint Luke’s Foundation
- Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
- United Way of Greater Cincinnati
- United Way of Greater Cleveland
In addition to contributing to the funding pool, philanthropies could also think about how to partner with retailers to fill other needs, such as nutrition education, and for sustainability of local food stores. More information, along with pre-application materials, are available online.
Claudia Y.W. Herrold