MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Healthy Food Financing Fund is now taking applications to help fund opportunities for food retailers to locate in underserved communities – typically referred to as food deserts – making it easier for Alabama families to have access to fresh, healthy food where they live. The fund, a public-private partnership housed and administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, was established with the passage of the Healthy Food Financing Act, by Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper).
The fund provides qualifying businesses a low-interest loan to either build grocery stores in underserved rural and urban areas or expand the fresh food offerings of existing retailers.
More than 1 million Alabamians live in areas designated as” food deserts,” an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Nearly 245,000 of those are children, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Two years after the bill’s passing, the fund is now “bearing fruit.”
“People should not have to drive a dozen miles or spend hours on public transportation just to buy fresh food,” said Senator Greg Reed. “The Healthy Food Financing Fund is helping provide access to fresh, local produce and whole grains, improving the health of our communities, and creating jobs for Alabamians.”
After passage of the bill, the Alabama Healthy Food Financing Initiative Study Commission, under the leadership of Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Senator Greg Reed, was created to develop a pipeline of projects for the fund. The commission reported those recommendations to the Alabama Legislature in 2017.
“Senator Bobby Singleton deserves recognition for all his support of the fund and his work on the commission. He has been instrumental in bringing this initiative to fruition,” Senator Greg Reed said.
In addition to providing healthy food options, the fund is designed to create and retain jobs by attracting new fresh food retailers, as well as providing the opportunity for the expansion of existing businesses. As new retailers move into underserved areas, they’ll also attract complementary businesses aiding in the economic revitalization of lower-income areas of the state.
The fund could offer significant health related savings as well. Alabama has the 4th highest incidence of Diabetes in the nation, and second highest adult hypertension rate. Reversing this trend would save the state billions in obesity-related medical costs.
This type of fund has had immense success in several other states. Healthy Food Financing Initiatives create jobs, boost local economies, lower healthcare costs, increase tax revenues, and contribute to the overall economic health of communities.
Senate Majority Leader Reed represents District 5, which includes all or parts of Fayette, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston counties.