IFF and Kansas Health Foundation team up to tackle rural food access

The Kansas Health Foundation just announced a $4.2 million investment to improve access to healthy food: the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative (KHFI).

The initiative aims to improve food distribution and grocery sale technology and fund other innovative solutions to food access challenges in Kansas, where 30 percent of the counties are considered food deserts. As part of the KHFI team, IFF will manage more than $5 million in combined loans and grants for food access projects, such as new, expanded, or improved rural grocery stores.

“Every person should have access to healthy food, but they don’t – this is a matter of equity,” said David Desai-Ramirez, Executive Director of IFF’s Southern Region. “Low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by food desserts, which present health issues as well as economic impacts. The good news is this kind of investment can really help.”

In addition to the financing pool, KHFI will offer technical assistance to grocers through the Kansas State University Center for Engagement and Community Development as well as The Food Trust, a national organization focused on food retail for underserved populations. The Kansas Health Foundation will remain engaged as a funder as well as partner, providing expertise in health issues related to food access.

“We are excited that the kind of collaborative food system work that we are doing in Kansas is part of a larger national movement to create a more equitable and resilient food system,” Desai-Ramirez said. “Diverse and complementary organizations, such as CDFIs, funders, food policy advocates, research institutions, and others are working together to leverage public and private capital, expertise, and effective programs to create long-term positive changes in where and how people access healthy food.”

IFF has developed underwriting expertise in the healthy food lending space over the last five years, during which time IFF has lent approximately $16.4 million to healthy food initiatives in seven states.

“Individuals and families can improve their health when they have better access to healthy food,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. “Research also tells us that local grocery stores strengthen community economics. We believe the KHFI is another tool to address food access issues in Kansas.”

The KHFI was announced in August 2017, and the program will be formally launched later this year. Stay tuned.

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