Governor Pat Quinn today announced the Illinois Fresh Food Fund to increase the availability of fresh food in Illinois communities and neighborhoods. Under this new public-private partnership based on best practices in other states, the Illinois Fresh Food Fund will provide financing to independent grocery store operators and developers to create full-service grocery stores in underserved areas throughout the state.
"It is unacceptable that there are still communities in Illinois where residents lack adequate access to fresh food," Governor Quinn said. "We all need nutritious food to live healthy lives. This new program will bring more grocery stores that sell fresh produce to underserved communities across Illinois, which improves health and wellness while also stimulating local economies and creating jobs."
Building on Governor Quinn's efforts to combat childhood obesity, improve health and wellness, and boost the state's economy, the Illinois Fresh Food Fund will use market analysis, capital and public policy to stimulate grocery store development and increase the availability of fresh food in documented low-access areas. To accomplish the goal, the state is partnering with IFF (formerly Illinois Facilities Fund), a nonprofit community development financial institution that is part of the Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which will administer the fund.
"The relationship between access to fresh foods and health, academic performance and overall quality of life is well-known, and I have always believed a solid investment in good nutrition can help transform struggling neighborhoods," said Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), a leading advocate for the eradication of food deserts. "The Fresh Food Fund is an innovative use of capital and federal funds and a winning proposition for children and families, Illinois farmers, business owners and job-seekers."
The state is investing $10 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding into the program to help address the need for access to fresh and healthy foods in communities statewide. Additional funding for the program comes from a $3.5 million grant that IFF secured through the U.S. Department of Treasury's Healthy Food Financing Initiative and also from banks and foundations.
"Supporting healthy food retail projects provides a variety of economic benefits to neighborhoods," said CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell. "I applaud Illinois and IFF for creating a program that combines well-targeted financing, technical assistance, and community partnerships in support of broader economic development efforts to revitalize distressed communities."
The Illinois Fresh Food Fund is modeled after successful efforts in Pennsylvania and New York State that provide residents in disadvantaged communities with greater access to a nutritionally balanced diet, coupled with nutritional education. Funded programs will include community engagement plans, through which grocers and community groups will work together to educate residents about healthy eating. While the primary purpose of the program is to finance full service grocery stores, other retail models may be considered on a case-by-case basis, with particular attention to the needs of the community for which a project is proposed.
"IFF is thrilled and honored to partner with the state on this important program," said Joe Neri, IFF CEO. "We're in the business of combining public and private funds to foster development of healthy communities in underserved areas. But healthy communities also need access to healthy, fresh foods. And too many communities nationwide have little or no access to such foods. Through these funds, IFF will be able to establish some oases where there were once just fresh-food deserts by leveraging private resources."
IFF is a leading regional community development financial institution (see www.iff.org) with 24 years of experience making loans in low-income communities throughout Illinois. To receive an application package or for information on upcoming workshops and webinars for applicants, please contact Amy Stewart, director of Marketing and Business Development at IFF at firstname.lastname@example.org.