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Letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the Office of Management and Budget - Casey Calls for National Healthy Food Financing Initiative Funding

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Office of Management and Budget to include funding in the upcoming budget to officially provide for a national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). HFFI is modeled after a successful Pennsylvania program that has improved access to healthy food, created jobs, and stimulated local economies. Casey was joined on his letter by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

"I'm pleased that this effective program from my home state was recently authorized in the Farm Bill," said Senator Casey. "However it is critical that this program is funded in the upcoming budget so that people across the country will have expanded access to healthy foods."

HFFI is modeled after a successful program in Pennsylvania that has resulted in 88 stores being built or renovated in underserved communities across the state. These stores have improved access to healthy food, created or retained 5,000 jobs, increased local tax revenues and stimulated additional development. Thirty million invested state dollars has resulted in projects totaling $190 million. The program has since been replicated in New York and several other states.

The text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Director

Office of Management and Budget

Dear Director Burwell:

Last week, with wide bipartisan support, Congress passed The Agricultural Act of 2014, which for the first time will officially establish a national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) at the United States Department of Agriculture. Having led this effort in Congress to include HFFI as part of the farm bill, we urge you to include $125 million in funding in the President's FY 2015 budget for this critical program in an effort to expand healthy food access across the country.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative provides loan and grant financing to attract grocery stores and other fresh food retail to underserved urban, suburban, and rural areas, and renovate and expand existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. HFFI will increase access to healthy food, prevent diet related chronic conditions and spark the economic development that communities across the country need. The farm bill creates a Federal framework for HFFI to continue to support the many efforts currently underway across the country to improve access to healthy foods and grow local economies through small business development and job creation.

HFFI is modeled after a successful program in Pennsylvania that has resulted in 88 stores being built or renovated in underserved communities across the state. These stores have improved access to healthy food, created or retained 5,000 jobs, increased local tax revenues and stimulated additional development. Thirty million invested state dollars has resulted in projects totaling $190 million. The program has since been replicated in New York and several other states, and received Federal grant resources from the CDFI Fund at Treasury and the Community Economic Development Program at HHS. Federal HFFI resources have been a hugely critical element in these efforts, providing an incentive to start new efforts, flexible resources for those underway and a magnet to bring in other investors.

HFFI will foster solutions that are locally determined, encouraging strategies that create public-private partnerships and build from the ground up. It has been of great importance to us to advance this policy in the farm bill and we urge you to do the same by including $125 million in funding for USDA Healthy Food Financing Initiative as part of your FY2015 budget. Given how this initiative is able to attract and leverage resources, the full $125 million appropriations at once will result in a fund that can fuel economic development and job creation to a degree many times larger than this seed capital. This is the moment to be bold. It is a tremendous accomplishment to have this important effort launched by this administration reach this moment of authorization; a full appropriation will allow it to demonstrate its enormous power in communities across the country.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator


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