$700,000 FCLF financing
Grocery store in USDA Food Desert
26,000 sq ft building renovations, equipment upgrades and inventory
The city of Fort Meade, in rural Polk County Florida, has been designated as a Food Desert by the USDA. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country without easy access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, and are usually found in low-income communities. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers, which is the case in Fort Meade, where a former grocery store had been closed and vacant since 2012.
Fresh Choice Market Place is the sole full-service grocery store for approximately 23,000 residents living in and around Fort Meade, where 43% of the population lives below poverty level and the average income is 62% of Area Median Income (AMI). In addition to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, Fresh Choice will offer space for entrepreneurs to prepare local specialties in a coffee shop setting. The project will also provide economic stimulus to the area as it creates 40-70 jobs over the next five years.
Florida Community Loan Fund provided a $700,000 loan to the developer of the project, Val-U-King, Inc., which will be used toward renovation of the building, replacement of old equipment with new, energy-efficient upgrades, and opening inventory. A portion of the loan will be at a minimal 1% interest rate and may be converted to equity capital for the borrower at the end of the loan term. The project is welcomed by City of Fort Meade officials, who had hoped to have a grocery store open in the area.
Financing for Fresh Choice Market Place is provided as part of FCLF’s Food Access Program, established to increase access to fresh, healthy foods in low-income, food insecure communities. FCLF has received funding for its Food Access Program from the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), and from the Florida Healthy Food Financing Initiative (FL-HFFI). These funding sources, along with FCLF’s private capital, deploy flexible financing for projects that provide ready access to fresh foods and can, in turn, improve health indicators such as diabetes and heart disease.
Pictured: ribbon cutting at the grand opening of Fresh Choice Market Place in October 2018. Below, exterior and interior. Bottom, the vacant building prior to renovation.
Read more in this article about the grand opening in The Ledger: Fresh Choice Market brings full-size grocery store option back to Fort Meade.