CDFA Defining the Food System Asset Class
CDFA received its first round of funding
from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2018 to research how development finance agencies could become more engaged in developing localized food systems through traditional finance approaches, such as bonds, tax increment finance, tax credits, and revolving loan funds. The premise of this project is to suggest and then prove that, if organized and defined properly, the food system can become an asset class worthy of traditional investment.
In 2020, CDFA received a second round of funding
from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to expand upon this work. CDFA aims to advance opportunities and leverage existing capital financing streams that scale local and regional food systems, increase access to better food, and create new living wage jobs in communities across the country.
CDFA sees the potential for the broadly defined food system to become a desired and performance-driven asset class. Through collaboration between food system participants and development finance agencies, new investments can be catalyzed to drive the creation of this asset class. There is significant opportunity for improving the link between local food systems and development finance. This includes using bonds for non-profits, food hubs, and farm expansions; tax increment finance for food industry industrial parks and neighborhood revitalization; or early stage financing models for entrepreneurs and food technology based businesses. Deploying traditional financing tools will help build the necessary data, impact metrics, and portfolio performance measures to prove the viability of food systems as a distinct asset class.
-Food Finance White Paper Series
-Food Systems Finance Webinar Series
-Food Systems Finance Pilot Projects
CDFA is continues to work with pilot projects in communities that have strong existing food system initiatives and are well-positioned to engage with traditional development finance. These pilot projects build equity in their local food systems and have generated momentum over the past several years.
- Franklin County, Ohio
CDFA partnered with Franklin County, Ohio to assist in identifying financial resources for an online business portal designed exclusively for food businesses. In May 2020, the Franklin County Food Business Portal was launched.
- King County, Washington
CDFA is partnered with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks to explore ways of using development finance tools to establish a local food facility in King County, Washington. In December 2020, CDFA released the King County Local Food Facility Development Finance Roadmap Report outlining key financing opportunities based on several operation models.
- Rhode Island Food Policy Council
CDFA is partnered with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council in an effort to use traditional finance tools to develop a seafood processing and distribution facility coupled with the necessary wastewater treatment facility in Rhode Island.
- Pennsylvania & The Food Trust
CDFA is partnered with The Food Trust with the goal of using development finance tools to leverage Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative grant dollars and improve access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved communities throughout Pennsylvania.
- Detroit, Michigan
CDFA researched traditional development finance tools that can be used to strengthen the Detroit region’s food system. CDFA produced Food Finance Detroit: A Landscape Map for Financing Detroit’s Local Food System to highlight possible financing resources that can be brought into coordination with the existing local efforts.
-Food Systems Strategic Finance Planning
CDFA is collaborating with several communities to produce strategic financing plans for local and regional food systems serving low-resourced communities. The plans will focus on using development finance tools to meet infrastructure, agriculture, small business, and other needs that support healthy, sustainable, and equitable local food systems development. These plans will boost the economies of the communities they serve and become a template for other communities to use for the development of their local and regional food systems.
- The Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT)
CDFA is working with The Ohio State University's InFACT to develop an economic development finance plan that will create a new financing entity to build a more robust food system across the state of Ohio by unlocking capital for food-related businesses, projects, and infrastructure. This approach also integrates InFACT's currents technical assistance programming and supports generous research opportunities for the University's faculty and students.
-Food Systems Finance Advisory Council (FSFAC)
CDFA hosts regular convenings of CDFA’s Food Systems Finance Advisory Council (FSFAC) over the grant period to establish a cohort within both the food and finance industries. Members of FSFAC include:
- Rosanne Albright, City of Phoenix
- Jim Barham, USDA Rural Development
- David Beck, Self-Help Credit Union
- John Steven Bianucci, Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT
- Cheryl Bilinski, Cornell University
- Keith Bisson, CEI Capital Management
- Matthew Brown, Franklin County Economic Development & Planning
- Scott Budde, Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union
- Laura Canter, MassDevelopment
- Jean Chorazyczewski, Fair Food Network
- Virginia Clarke, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders
- Elizabeth Cody, Southeast Nebraska Development District
- Shayna Cohen, Karen Karp & Partners
- Rodger Cooley, Chicago Food Policy Action Council
- Alex Cordova, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Bea Covington, Amplio Network
- Tim Crosby, Thread Fund
- Paula Daniels, Center for Good Food Purchasing
- Kristin Dawson, Reinvestment Fund
- Eric DeLuca, Food Finance Institute
- Eric de Valpine, Foodshed Investors
- Linda Jo Doctor, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Tim Dolan, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority
- Brett Doney, Great Falls Montana Development Authority
- Christi Electris, Croatan Institute
- Brian Estabrook, Franklin County Economic Development & Planning
- Jen Faigel, CommonWealth Kitchen
- Sharon Feuer Gruber, City First Enterprises
- John Fisk, Bluestem Food Systems Consulting
- Devin Foote, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Lance Gilliam, Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors
- Drew Hammond, U.S. Bank
- Caroline Harries, The Food Trust
- Jonathan Harrison, California FarmLink
- Oran Hesterman, Fair Food Network
- Bob Heuer, HNA Networks
- Haile Johnston, The Common Market
- Ben Kerrick, Karen Karp & Partners
- Tricia Kovacs, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service
- Ryan Kozak, Huntington Capital Markets
- Sarah Larson, Food Finance Institute
- Douglas Le, County of Hawaii
- Sarah Day Levesque, Regenerative Food Systems Investment
- David LeZaks, Croatan Institute
- Alex Linkow, Conservation Law Foundation
- Michael Lufkin, King County, WA
- Diane Lynch, Rhode Island Food Policy Council
- Renske Lynde, 1st Course Capital
- Vince Mangini, Food21
- Lori Matheus, New Jersey Economic Development Authority
- Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council
- Jarred Maxwell, Foodshed Investors
- Dan Miller, Steward
- John Mitterholzer, George Gund Foundation
- Wendy Peters Moschetti, Nourish Colorado
- Joel Moyer, Fair Food Network
- Johanna Nelson, New Mexico Economic Development Department
- Luis Nieves-Ruiz, East Central Florida Regional Planning Council
- Donna Nuccio, New Markets Support Company
- Jenny Osman, New York City Economic Development Corporation
- Jamie Rahrig, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
- Olivia Rebanal, Ecotrust
- Nessa Richman, Rhode Island Food Policy Council
- Kathy Saloy, Hope Enterprise Corporation
- Philip Sambol, Oasis Community Partners
- Mieka Sanderson, Appalachian Regional Commission
- Brian Snyder, Write2Farm Consulting
- Janice St. Onge, Flexible Capital Fund, L3C
- Anna Tefft, Partner Community Capital
- Daniel Tellalian, Angel City Advisors
- Pamela Trammell, West Alabama Regional Commission
- Lisa Tucker, Field & Fork Network
- Cam Turner, United Fund Advisors
- Dafina Williams, Opportunity Finance Network
-Food Systems Finance Resources & Newsletter
CDFA continuously collects data, reports, best practices, news, case studies, presentations, and other learning materials on development finance tools used to support food-related businesses and projects. Please visit the CDFA Food Systems Finance Resource Center
to learn more and stay up-to-date on the latest development finance efforts within the food system.
Want regular updates on food systems financing? Subscribe to the CDFA Food & Agriculture Finance Update
-Additional CDFA Food Systems Finance Initiatives
The CDFA Defining the Food System as an Asset Class project was prepared by the Council of Development Finance Agencies using grant funds from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Additional key project elements include:
- National Revolving Loan Fund Analysis
Food and agriculture-related businesses are often perceived as too risky for traditional lending approaches, yet CDFA's report Debunking Risk in Food System Lending tells a different story. This report, with loan-level data from over a thousand funds nationwide, demonstrates that food system loans perform and that revolving loan funds can successfully support local food system borrowers in their communities.
- Best Practices Guidebook
CDFA is producing a publicly available guidebook for best practices in financing local and regional food systems. It will be widely distributed to DFAs, CDFIs, food policy councils, and other food system practitioners.
- National Food Systems Finance Convening
CDFA is planning a national in-person convening of food systems practitioners and development finance experts. This educational event will be focused on development finance tools, how they can be applied to local food systems, and connecting capital resources to under-invested communities.