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Michigan Good Food Fund Looks to Finance the Local Food Chain

July 27, 2015 |

by Traci Knight

Image courtesy of Michigan Good Food Fund

Image courtesy of Michigan Good Food Fund

Access to fresh, healthy food as an economic development driver is becoming part of the picture in Michigan with the launch of Michigan Good Food Fund in June.

This statewide loan and grant fund will provide financing and business assistance to benefit communities with good food and economic opportunity, by offering funding from a broad sector of stakeholders, nonprofits, and philanthropist groups. The coalition is looking to support businesses to aggregate and distribute fresh produce in underserved communities while simultaneously building local economies.

Michigan is second only to California in national agricultural output. But here, marginalized communities still struggle to put fresh food on the table. Income disparity and food deserts are a national problem that The Fair Food Network is trying to solve, according to CEO and President Dr. Oran B. Hesterman.

Hesterman says the Michigan Good Food Fund will provide financing across the food chain. He notes that the program’s potential impact is significant due to the broad collaboration supporting the project, including Michigan State University and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

“We know that Michigan produces over $100 billion annually in agricultural enterprises, and that number is growing,” says  Hesterman. “We have over 1.8 million residents in the state who live in poverty, 300,000 of whom are children.”

The Michigan Good Food Fund started with an initial grant from the US Treasury’s Healthy Food Finance Initiative, which came to Capital Impact Partners, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution. With the help of Fair Food Network and major player W.K. Kellogg Group, the concept came to life. The turn-around time on applications depends upon documentation and could be within a matter of weeks or months.

According to Hesterman, the goals of the Michigan Good Food Fund are to provide financing to businesses that are expanding and are meeting the needs of underserved communities. Through the business assistance program, a pipeline of investable business can be created.

Progress will be measured on many fronts, both in the number of jobs created and the amount of food distributed. However, the Good Food Fund is also very interested in racial and social equity. The fund will seek to ascertain the demographic profiles of those receiving jobs, and will offer opportunities in areas where unemployment is high.

Building a pipeline of jobs is one of the most important strategic goals of the fund. Initial investments will take place during the 2015 calendar year.

Since financing will take place across the food chain, a wide variety of recipients is expected. Some examples could be supermarket expansion, mobile markets in underserved neighborhoods, or food hubs that need cooling, freezing space or a loading platform.

Michigan entrepreneurs who need to purchase machinery can also look to the Good Food Fund for help. Startup businesses are eligible, and business assistance is available. Hesterman anticipates offering both micro-loans and grant money, as well as the ability to apply for multi-million dollar financing.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to be able to provide the kind of capital necessary to take advantage of the business opportunities within the food system, and create a self-sustaining model of change,” says Hesterman.

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