The Community Vision (Community Vision) is pleased to announce it has joined ReFresh™, a national initiative of The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), designed to improve access to healthy foods in urban and rural communities across the U.S.  JP Morgan Chase Foundation is the initiative’s first investor.

Community Vision will focus its efforts on improving access to healthy foods throughout its 46 northern California counties, with special emphasis and resources going to help eradicate food deserts in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Community Vision’s newly released 2014-2018 strategic plan has identified expansion of our lending and consulting around food access issues in the Central Valley of California as a major priority moving forward,” said Mary A. Rogier, President of Community Vision.  “We are proud to be a part of this national coalition to identify effective strategies that can be replicated in other parts of the United States.”

As the initiative’s first investor, JP Morgan Chase has awarded TRF a $2 million grant to launch new and expand existing food access financing efforts in targeted underserved communities.  In addition to Community Vision, the inaugural ReFresh™ Cohort includes the following four partners:

The goal of ReFresh™ is to share expertise and pursue opportunities so that its members can finance more food access projects that benefit low-income communities. Millions of Americans, in both urban and rural communities, face long-standing barriers that make it challenging for them to live more stable and healthy lives.  In many cases residents have to travel long distances to access fresh food.

This is especially alarming in the San Joaquin Valley in California where California’s Central Valley is the richest agricultural region in the United States – producing more than 400 different commodities – and yet has several of the poorest counties in the country. Nearly 40% of the Central Valley’s population is plagued by food insecurity. In the City of Fresno, 85% of school children qualify for free lunch and 33% grow up in extreme poverty.  Although the area produces nearly $5.3 billion from agriculture, affordable food options available  to low-income residents are often unhealthy.

By joining together through the ReFresh™ initiative, these Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) will conduct market assessment studies, developing mapping of food access areas using PolicyMap, deliver technical assistance to borrowers and provide direct loans—all areas that will improve access to foods in the communities served by each of these partner organization.

“The JPMorgan Chase Foundation is proud to help CDFIs build capacity and increase collaboration in order to amplify local economic growth, through its new CDFI Collaboratives program. This collaborative, led by The Reinvestment Fund, will support healthy food business and enable more residents of underserved communities to access fresh, healthy foods,” said Janis Bowdler, Senior Program Director for Financial Capability and Affordable Housing, JP Morgan Chase Foundation.