Menomonie Market Food Co-op has announced that they have received a $200,000 grant toward building their new expanded store in Eau Claire. The co-op was among 134 grantees to receive financial assistance awards through the 2021 round of America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 134 projects received a total of $22.6 million in financial assistance awards. The $200,000 grant is the maximum size grant awarded under the program. Menomonie Market and Just Local Foods merged their cooperatives in 2021 and MMFC is building a new store in Eau Claire to replace the current store.

“This award is crucial to realizing the longtime goal of putting a full-service grocery store in downtown Eau Claire, currently identified as a food desert by the United States Census Bureau,” says Crystal Halvorson, Menomonie Market Food Co-op General Manager. “We won the maximum amount of $200,000, and that money will go directly to the construction costs for our new building. With the current complexities in construction including inflation and supply issues, this award is very timely.”

Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects and food enterprises seeking financial assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to operating in underserved areas. The program received 566 Letter of Interest submissions to the RFA in December 2021. Based on eligibility, 359 applicants were invited to submit full applications in January 2022, with 294 final applications received by the deadline in March 2022.

As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administers the HFFI Program on behalf of USDA. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans.

“The legacy of racist policies like redlining and the resulting disinvestment continues to harm communities in so many ways, including through the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “We are honored to work with the USDA to address some of these historical injustices through the HFFI program by investing in food systems assets that not only increase food access in underserved communities but improve health, strengthen local economies, grow wealth and quality jobs, and develop essential community anchors.”

Awardee projects are located 46 states, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. Of the 134 financial assistance awardees, 45% serve rural communities, and 81% are owned or led by people of color, women, and/or native people. Of the awardees, 69% are grocery retail projects. Another 31% of awardees offer alternative retail models including mobile markets, CSAs, or food boxes.

“This grant award underlines the support for our unique vision: that small, independent, and locally owned businesses are good for local economies,” Halvorson explains. “By building a larger food co-op in Eau Claire, we will drastically increase the business we do with over 200 farmers and food producers in our area. And we will not only build wealth for the 4,800 families that own the co-op but also for the many local vendors who support it with their products.”

The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises that aimed to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program assists a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets. A full list of awardees is available at

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Association, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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