Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) is joining the Michigan Good Food Fund (MGFF) in its valuable work to address food apartheid in communities throughout Michigan. While “food deserts” are defined as neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food, nutrient-poor food is often readily available in income-challenged neighborhoods. The MGFF’s unique lending programs seek to change that status quo.
With GROW as a lending partner, MGFF is helping West Michigan businesses to finance enterprises that increase access to affordable, healthy food in an income-challenged, underserved, Michigan community. Any business that grows, processes, distributes, or sells healthy food within an eligible community can apply for loans ranging from $1,000 to $6 million from the fund, which is a public-private partnership.
GROW, along with two other lending partners, Northern Initiatives and Detroit Development Fund, will underwrite loans less than $250,000. MGFF fund manager, Capital Impact Partners, underwrites loans more than $250,000. Businesses can seek financing for working capital, inventory, equipment, acquiring real estate, construction, property improvements, facility expansions, and business process upgrades.
“We have $30 million available to support businesses across Michigan. Since our launch, we have built a network of lending partners and also a robust, technical support services pipeline,” says Mary Donnell, MGGF program manager. “GROW lets us deepen our presence in the west side of the State. It really is our goal that every business we lend to improves the health of Michigan children and families.”
MGFF had already helped two Grand Rapids businesses with financing. Ken’s Fruit Market provides affordable fresh produce in three locations: 2420 Eastern Ave SE, 3500 Plainfield Ave NE, and 830 28th St. SW. Placita Olvera, a mixed-use development on Grandville Avenue, will include a brewery, multiple restaurants, an outdoor farmers' market, and a business incubator space.
As MGFF sought to expand the program in West Michigan, involving GROW seemed a natural next step. West Michigan businesses applying for MGFF loans through GROW must attend a free, one-hour seminar that introduces them to all of the services that GROW offers. (The lending opportunity is not restricted to women.)
According to Kelli Smith, GROW’s business development officer and microloan counselor, the MGFF lending program aligns with GROW’s goals because many of the local businesses GROW serves are based in neighborhoods with limited food access or run by minority business owners.
“Increasing access to affordable, healthy food is one of our sweet spots. We are attempting to help the same minority-based borrowers that the program is specifically seeking out,” she says. “We’re excited to get moving with this. And, we’re trying to spread the word that we have lending options for food centered businesses.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women