New Orleans’ 9th Ward Will Soon Have Access to Healthy Foods, Thanks to ASI FCU
(September 16, 2011 – Washington, DC) On Wednesday, Donna Gambrell, Director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, announced $25 million in awards to 12 CDFIs serving food deserts – low-income neighborhoods with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The grants, made available as part of the multi-agency Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), were awarded to 12 CDFIs focused on developing solutions for increasing access to affordable healthy foods. Among the awardees under this program was ASI Federal Credit Union, a community development credit union (CDCU) serving the greater New Orleans area, who received $3 million to start a new revolving loan fund to support lending to strengthen healthy food distribution in low-income areas of New Orleans.
“The awards being provided to CDFIs through this initiative will enable CDFIs to enhance their financing solutions to deliver healthy food options to food deserts nationwide,” said Director Gambrell. “The 12 awardees this year have an impressive combination of experience in working in underserved areas and the enthusiasm to expand their expertise to improve the quality of life for residents of low-income communities across the country.”
According to ASI FCU CEO Mignhon Tourné, the credit union was already doing this type of lending. “Two weeks ago, on the day prior to the 6-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Healing Center held its grand opening in the Upper Ninth Ward, a community that has historically been low-income and predominantly African-American, and which could have been considered a food desert with respect to healthy foods, even prior to Katrina, but certainly since that terrible day,” she said. “But that grand opening was a proud moment for us because our credit union provided financing to a new food cooperative as well as a new Mediterranean restaurant that are opening at that center.”
ASI FCU also opened a micro-branch at the new center and Tourné stressed that the award from the CDFI Fund would help them expand their efforts significantly.
Sarah Taylor, Senior Vice President at ASI FCU also commented on the award. “We have already had several conversations with grocers and restaurateurs in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods of the Ninth Ward who need financing to start or expand their businesses,” she said. “These monies from the CDFI Fund will help us make a real impact in those communities, creating new jobs and providing healthy and affordable food alternatives. We’re extremely excited and still somewhat in disbelief,” Taylor exclaimed.
In addition to this recent award, ASI FCU also received a $1.5 million award from the CDFI Fund under its Core funding round in July.
The HFFI is an interagency initiative involving the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HFFI represents the federal government’s first coordinated step to eliminate “food deserts” by promoting a wide range of interventions that expand the supply of and demand for nutritious foods, including increasing the distribution of agricultural products; developing and equipping grocery stores; and strengthening producer-to-consumer relationships.
The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) recently held a training on Healthy Foods Financing in Madison, Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN).
According to Rosenthal, the Federation has been a tireless advocate, both on behalf of the CDFI Fund and its program, but also in expanding the numbers of CDFI-certified CDCUs. “There are currently over 200 CDFI-certified CDCUs, representing more than 20% of all CDFIs, and this is a number we are continually working to expand,” he said. “The Federation is the only credit union organization focused on providing in-depth CDFI certification and application assistance to credit unions across the nation, and each award to a CDCU represents a tangible victory for our movement.”
The Federation was a leading member in the coalition that won establishment of the CDFI Fund in the mid-90s, and has been a leading advocate with the CDFI Fund on behalf of CDCUs. To date, the CDFI Fund has made more than $123 million in CDFI awards to the CDCU movement, making it among single largest sources of growth capital for these responsible financial service providers. To date, more than 97% of all CDFI Fund credit union recipients have been Federation member CDCUs.
© 2011 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.