TRF's Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) continues to draw national attention for how it improved access to fresh foods in underserved communities statewide. The program, which began in 2004, ended six years later when all of its funds were deployed. FFFI attracted 206 applications from across Pennsylvania, with 88 projects financed as of June 2010. In total, more than $73.2 million in loans and $12.1 million in grants were approved. Projects approved for financing were expected to bring 5,023 jobs and 1.67 million square feet of commercial space.
FFFI provided financing for supermarkets that plan to operate where infrastructure costs and credit needs cannot be filled solely by conventional financial institutions. By improving the food landscape of underserved communities, the initiative provided families with a wide variety of affordable, nutritious food choices while creating jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods.
Among the projects financed by FFFI is ShopRite of Island Avenue, a 57,000 square foot supermarket located in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia. It boasts not only fresh and affordable food, but a strong connection to the Eastwick community. Most of the supermarket’s 258 quality jobs, many with attractive employee benefits, are filled by local residents. The ShopRite opened with $250,000 in grant funding from FFFI and a loan from TRF’s New Markets Tax Credits program. The Shop Rite’s presence in the neighborhood is also influencing the local real estate value by stimulating additional development in the area and job opportunities nearby.
Reaching Underserved Communities Across the State
For four generations, the Mastroroccos have operated a store in Derry, a town in rural Pennsylvania about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh. Originally a meat market, the full service supermarket has expanded three times in the same location where it opened 96 years ago. It is the only grocery store within a 5-mile radius and is a community focal point. In 2007, with financing from FFFI, the store increased its sales space and product offering, while also adding several much-needed upgrades.
Like Mastrorocco Market, the Hometown Market in Williamsburg is the only full service supermarket in town. As store owners Tim Cleveland and Gerald Slick explain, “Many of our Claysburg customers have relatives in Williamsburg who had heard of our store and were anxious to have a well run local market in their town. Thanks to FFFI, we could make it happen.” The Williamsburg community has extended a warm welcome to the new Hometown Market; the Williamsburg Betterment Group, which consists of local businessmen, has even committed additional financial support to keep the store in their town.