For the second year in a row, the Governor and legislators included $1 million in the budget to fund the Healthy Food Retail Act, bringing the total allocated to date for the state’s fresh food financing initiative to $2 million. The funding is state-allocated Community Development Block Grant funds.
From the 2016 statute:
D. (1) To the extent funds are available, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, in cooperation with public and private sector partners, shall establish a financing program that provides grants and loans to healthy food retailers that increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other affordable healthy food in underserved communities.
(2) The department may contract with one or more qualified nonprofit organizations or community development financial institutions to administer the program described in this Section through a public-private partnership, to raise matching funds, market the program statewide, evaluate applicants, make award decisions, underwrite loans, and monitor compliance and impact. The department and its partners shall coordinate with complementary nutrition assistance and education programs.
(3) The program shall provide funding on a competitive, one-time basis as appropriate for the eligible project.
(4)(a) The program may provide funding for projects such as:
(i) New construction of supermarkets and grocery stores.
(ii) Store renovations, expansion, and infrastructure upgrades that improve the availability and quality of fresh produce.
(iii) Farmers’ markets and public markets, food cooperatives, mobile markets and delivery projects, and distribution projects that enable food retailers in underserved communities to regularly obtain fresh produce.
(iv) Other projects that create or improve healthy food retail outlets that meet the intent of this Chapter as determined by the department.
(b) Funding made available for projects included in Subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph may be used for the following purposes:
(i) Site acquisition and preparation.
(ii) Construction costs.
(iii) Equipment and furnishings.
(iv) Workforce training.
(vi) Certain pre-development costs such as market studies and appraisals.
(vii) Working capital for first-time inventory and start-up costs.
(c) A restaurant is not eligible for funding under this Chapter.
(5) An applicant for funding may be a for-profit or a not-for-profit entity, including but not limited to a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, cooperative, a nonprofit organization, nonprofit community development entity, university, or governmental entity.