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CHICAGO (STMW) – Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday announced the Illinois Fresh Food Fund to increase the availability of fresh food in underserved communities and neighborhoods throughout the state.
Under this new public-private partnership based on best practices in other states, the Illinois Fresh Food Fund will provide financing to independent grocery store operators and developers to create full-service grocery stores in these areas, a release from the governor’s office said.
The Illinois Fresh Food Fund will use market analysis, capital and public policy to stimulate grocery store development and increase the availability of fresh food in documented low-access areas, the release said. To accomplish the goal, the state is partnering with IFF (formerly Illinois Facilities Fund), a nonprofit community development financial institution that is part of the Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which will administer the fund.
“It is unacceptable that there are still communities in Illinois where residents lack adequate access to fresh food,” Quinn said. “We all need nutritious food to live healthy lives. This new program will bring more grocery stores that sell fresh produce to underserved communities across Illinois, which improves health and wellness while also stimulating local economies and creating jobs.”
State Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), called the Fresh Food Fund “an innovative use of capital and federal funds and a winning proposition for children and families, Illinois farmers, business owners and job-seekers.”
The state is investing $10 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding into the program to help address the need for access to fresh and healthy foods in communities statewide, according to the release.
Additional funding for the program comes from a $3.5 million grant that IFF secured through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative and also from banks and foundations.
The Illinois Fresh Food Fund is modeled after successful efforts in Pennsylvania and New York State that provide residents in disadvantaged communities with greater access to a nutritionally balanced diet, coupled with nutritional education.
Funded programs will include community engagement plans, through which grocers and community groups will work together to educate residents about healthy eating. While the primary purpose of the program is to finance full service grocery stores, other retail models may be considered on a case-by-case basis, with particular attention to the needs of the community for which a project is proposed.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)