State Representatives Jeffery Rezabek (R-Clayton) and Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) hosted a press conference yesterday at Friendship Village in Trotwood to promote a new program that will help provide healthy foods to underserved areas in Ohio.

The two legislators teamed up with representatives from the Finance Fund Capital Corporation, the private entity selected to administer funds to operate the Health Food for Ohio Program (HFFO). Funds may be used for land acquisition, predevelopment, construction, infrastructure, equipment and related expenses needed to complete the project.

“I want to thank Chairman Smith and the Finance Fund for coming to my district in support of the Healthy Food for Ohio program,” said Rezabek, whose House district includes Trotwood. “I believe this program can have a huge impact on our region by providing much-needed healthy foods. I look forward to continuing to work with our community leaders and help bring this program to our area.”

The Healthy Food for Ohio program is a public-private partnership that provides loans and grants to food retailers that are developing or renovating fresh food retail in underserved areas in Ohio. Rep. Rezabek worked with Rep. Smith, who chairs the House Finance Committee, and Rep. Mark Romanchuk to secure $1 million per year for the program in last year’s state operating budget.

“This program provides tools that will help support grocery store development in areas that need it most,” Smith said. Smith represents the primarily rural 93rd House District that includes portions of Vinton County, which has not had a grocery store for several years.

Diana Turoff, President and CEO of Finance Fund, also attended the press conference. "The Healthy Food for Ohio program will help overcome funding gaps and barriers faced by healthy food retailers operating in low- to moderate-income areas," Turoff said. "Through this model, the program aims to increase access to affordable, fresh food in underserved areas, improve the diets of Ohio residents and spur economic development and revitalization."

Applicants will be evaluated and approved for financing while funds remain available. The data used to determine an area’s eligibility will be provided by The Food Trust. A pre-application will be utilized to ensure that an applicant meets the objectives of the HFFO. If both the application and pre-application have been completed, a letter will be sent to the applicant disclosing the eligibility status and may invite the applicant to apply for financing.

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