Michigan Good Food Fund Designed To Promote Healthy Eating, Spur Economic Growth

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mike Gallagher, CMF Editorial Correspondent

Michigan is considered a leader in promoting access to healthy foods and a group of funding partners led by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is making sure the state remains an innovative leader in this effort.

As part of this continuing initiative, a new public/private partnership loan and grant fund – called The Michigan Good Food Fund (MGFF) – has been created and is set to launch in early 2015, according to Linda Jo Doctor, program director, W.K. Kellogg Foundation [photo: 2nd from left].

In a session at CMF’s 42nd annual conference entitled: “Michigan Good Food Fund – Good News for Michigan,” Doctor shared information about the fund’s rollout along with fellow panel members Tina Castro, principal, Avivar Capital; C. John Duong, program and portfolio officer, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Oran Hesterman, president/CEO, Fair Food Network.

“This new fund will help support projects across the food value chain including processing, distribution, marketing, retail and other food entrepreneurship projects,” explained Doctor.

Duong said the fund was jumpstarted in 2012 by a $3 million federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) award provided to Capital Impact Partners, a nonprofit-certified Community Development Financial Institution which will serve as the MGFF manager.

Proposed projects submitted for MGFF funding will be evaluated using several criteria, according to Castro. That criteria includes how well they:

  • increase access to healthy food.
  • boost local economic development and job creation.
  • promote environmental stewardship.
  • increase sourcing of Michigan-grown foods.
  • ensure equity by supporting businesses owned or operated by women, people of color or entrepreneurs in low-income communities.

“Our target fund size at this time is $30 million,” noted Castro. “The money will be used for loans and grants. Our goals for (MGFF) are to expand access, ensure equity, create jobs, promote environmental stewardship, increase local sourcing and drive economic development.”

Partners working with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Avivar Capital, Capital Impact Partners and the Fair Food Network to keep MGFF moving forward include: Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, AFPD (association of independent retailers), Growing Hope, Michigan Food & Farming Systems and FoodLab Detroit.

Several state and federal agencies are also involved in the project, noted Doctor, including the Michigan Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Department of Community Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to Hesterman, the USDA reports that 2.1 million Michigan residents – including more than 500,000 children – live in communities with limited access to a nearby grocery store.

“The problems facing people in these communities also include high rates of diet-related illnesses, obesity and unemployment,” said Hesterman.

“The benefits of investing in the healthy food retail sector include the creation of new jobs, spurring needed economic development and, most importantly, the introduction of and helping sustain healthy eating habits within families,” he added.

In an ongoing effort to keep the MGFF viable, Castro said that in addition to the $3 million HFFI award, “We are working to secure additional funding and financing through grant dollars and low-cost debt to ensure the fund is as targeted and flexible as possible.”

While fund officials are still in the process of establishing lending terms and descriptions of who can apply for these funds, Castro noted that she expects the final rules and regulations will make eligible Michigan-based for-profits, nonprofits and cooperatives that serve or are located in traditionally underserved areas.

Private funding dollars are also being sought to augment the strength of the MGFF, said Doctor.

Investors and funders interested in learning more about and joining the effort to build and sustain a healthy, good fresh food state and help spur economic development throughout Michigan’s food chain in cities and small towns alike can visit: www.fairfoodnetwork.org.

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