Lowcountry Housing Trust receives award to combat "food deserts"

Image by Flickr user John Pozadzides

Lowcountry Housing Trust is one of a dozen organizations nationwide to receive funding through the federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund program for healthy food financing projects. The 2011 program awards $25 million to organizations serving food deserts, which are defined as low-income neighborhoods with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

The financing awards, made available as part of the multi-agency Healthy Food Financing Initiative, were awarded to 12 Community Development Financial Institutions focused on developing solutions for increasing access to affordable healthy foods.

Food deserts are urban neighborhoods and rural towns with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. USDA estimates that more than 23 million people in America live in low-income areas that are more than a mile from a supermarket.

“The lack of nutritious and affordable food is a serious issue in parts of the Lowcountry and we’re looking forward to working with our local partners to address this need,” says Michelle Mapp, executive director of LHT. “Food and housing are basic human needs and as a CDFI, the Lowcountry Housing Trust, is in a unique position to access capital to ensure those needs are met.”

LHT would potentially provide financing to projects being developed by Lowcountry Local First, Lowcountry Food Bank, Metanoia and the City of North Charleston as those seek to expand access to nutritious foods by catalyzing private sector investment.

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.

In July, LHT received a $1.5 million capital award from the CDFI Fund for use in financing affordable housing developments along coastal South Carolina. Since its first CDFI Fund award in 2008, LHT has secured more than $2.85 million through the CDFI Fund program, putting this federal resource to work financing the production and rehabilitation of affordable and work force housing throughout the region.

For more information about the Lowcountry Housing Trust, visit www.lowcountryhousingtrust.org.

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