Opportunities for Supermarkets in Underserved Areas

May 17, 2012

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) released a study today showing that 24.8 million Americans live in areas with limited supermarket access (LSA) in the continental United States. The study, commissioned by the CDFI Fund’s Capacity Building Initiative to assist Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) serving neighborhoods with low healthy food options, also examines the disparity in access to healthy food for low-income and minority populations.

The results of the study have been published in Searching for Markets: The Geography of Inequitable Access to Healthy and Affordable Food, a report completed by The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and released as part of the Capacity Building Initiative’s Financing Healthy Food Options training series. The training, provided under contract by the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), help CDFIs develop the capacity to provide financing for a variety of healthy food entities, from grocery stores to co-ops to farms. The “Searching for Markets” report aids this effort by identifying communities with unmet demand for healthy food retail options.

“The ‘Searching for Markets’ study exemplifies the core goal of the Capacity Building Initiative, which is to provide as many varied resources as possible to CDFIs as they seek growth and an increased ability to serve their customers,” said CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell. “This study will enable CDFIs to better target areas that would benefit from increased healthy food financing, benefiting low-income communities across the country.”

“Searching for Markets” identifies 1,519 communities where supermarkets do not exist today, and where the unmet demand within the community is large enough to support a full-service grocery store. To determine the areas, the methodology first established a benchmark distance for people to travel to supermarkets, based on population density and car ownership, and then measured every block group in the nation against the benchmark. In addition, “Searching for Markets” demonstrates that residents living in LSA areas are 2.28 times more likely to be low-income; and minority populations are up to 2.49 times more likely to live in an LSA area than non-minority populations.

TRF’s Chief Executive Officer Don Hinkle-Brown shared that “the study brought to bear our analytical expertise and the practical experience we’ve gained as a local program administrator to help TRF and others be more strategic when operating programs around the nation.

The data on which the study is based is available to the public free of charge via a customized LSA tool on PolicyMap, TRF’s online data, and mapping tool. The tool assists investors, operators, locally-based organizations, and policymakers to identify areas where supporting supermarkets may be a viable intervention strategy for improving residents’ access to fresh and healthy foods. Through PolicyMap, users can evaluate food access demand and underlying market conditions.

Mark Pinsky, President of OFN, notes, “With the data made widely available on PolicyMap, both CDFIs and their potential partners have a credible resource from which to explore and act on these issues in their market areas.

Read a summary of the study here and download the full report at www.cdfifund.gov/what_we_do/resources/SearchingForMarkets_Report_web_Low_ Res.pdf.

Data for the continental U.S. is available at http://www.cdfifund.gov/what_we_do/FinancingHealthyFoodOptionsResourceBank.asp


About the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund
The CDFI Fund invests in and builds the capacity of community-based, private, for-profit, and non-profit financial institutions with a primary mission of community development in economically distressed communities. These institutions – certified by the CDFI Fund as community development financial institutions or CDFIs – are able to respond to gaps in local markets that traditional financial institutions are not adequately serving. CDFIs provide critically needed capital, credit and other financial products in addition to technical assistance to community residents and businesses, service providers, and developers working to meet community needs.

For more information about the CDFI Fund and its programs, please visit the Fund’s website at: www.cdfifund.gov.

About Opportunity Finance Network

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the leading network of private financial institutions, creates growth that is good for communities, investors, individuals, and the economy. Members of OFN are community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that deliver responsible lending to help low-wealth and low-income communities join the economic mainstream. More information is available at: www.opportunityfinance.net.

About The Reinvestment Fund
TRF is a national leader in rebuilding America’s distressed towns and cities, through the innovative use of capital and information. TRF has invested over $1 billion in Mid-Atlantic communities since 1985. A CDFI, TRF finances housing, community facilities, food access, commercial real estate, and energy efficiency projects. Manager of the PA Fresh Food Financing Initiative that became the model for the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative, TRF has invested over $100 million in 92 supermarkets, grocery stores, and other fresh food retail enterprise, resulting in over 5,500 jobs and 6.8 million square feet of food retail space. In addition to financing, TRF provides public policy expertise by helping clients create actionable solutions and by sharing data and analysis via www.PolicyMap.com To learn more about TRF, visit www.trfund.com