On June 21st, the IHL co-facilitated a policy training workshop with the American Heart Association (AHA) to help community stakeholders and policy makers understand the technical aspects of HFFIs.
HFFIs have developed around the country as a tool for state and local governments to bring new and enhance existing supermarkets, grocery stores and food retail services to low-income, underserved communities. Programs have been started with public economic development funding or philanthropic investments that are awarded by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to be leveraged with other sources of public and private capital and then invested in new and expanded stores and markets.
The need for the training was identified by the El Paso Food Policy Council’s Healthy Food Incentive Taskforce following a year’s worth of work focused on addressing food insecurity and healthy food access in the community. The technical assistance workshop included an overview of evidenced based HFFI, national best practices and models, and an in-depth discussion regarding what an HFFI program could look like in El Paso. There was representation from key stakeholders including local and independent grocers, El Paso city and county staff and elected/appointed officials, local food growers, producers, aggregators, nutrition educators, and public health professionals.
The training led to consensus from the taskforce members that HFFI is a worthwhile pursuit. An integral part of HFFI development will hinge on input from stakeholders. The next steps in the process are 1) the development of a draft proposal to introduce to The County of El Paso and The City of El Paso for consideration in future budget allocations, 2) the coordination of nutrition education and marketing strategies to increase the purchasing and consumption of healthier foods, and 3) further engagement of public and private investors.