Food Deserts: A New Markets Tax Credit Oasis

In its 2011 allocation agreement the CDFI Fund added the “Food Desert” as one of the two secondary criteria which a community development entity may use to qualify a site as “highly distressed” under the Federal New Markets Tax Credit Program. This change in the allocation agreement is significant in light of the President’s proposal to extend the Program for two additional years and designate that at least $500 million ($250 million per year) will support financing healthy food options in distressed communities as part of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The 2011 allocation agreement defines a Food Desert, as either: 1) a census tract determined to be a Food Desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as identified in USDA’s Food Desert Locator Tool; or 2) a census tract that qualifies as a Low-Income Community and has been identified as having low access to a supermarket or grocery store through a methodology that has been adopted for use by another governmental or philanthropic healthy food initiative. In addition, the 2011 allocation requires that QLICI activities increase access to healthy food. As a result, with the extension of the Federal New Markets Tax Credit program there will be an increased focus by community development entities on the development of affordable food centers in food deserts.

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