The 74,000-member ASI Federal Credit Union, a community development credit union that serves the greater New Orleans area, has received a $3 million grant which is meant to help entrepreneurs seeking to bring healthier food to low-income neighborhoods.
These areas are colloquially known as “food deserts” and helping to shrink them is a goal of the Healthy Food Finance Initiative, an effort of U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.
The CDFI fund announced grants totaling $25 million spread among 12 community development financial institutions, including ASI.
"The awards being provided to CDFIs through this initiative will enable CDFIs to enhance their financing solutions to deliver healthy food options to food deserts nationwide," said CDFI Director Donna J. Gambrell.
"The 12 awardees this year have an impressive combination of experience in working in underserved areas and the enthusiasm to expand their expertise to improve the quality of life for residents of low-income communities across the country," Gambrell said.
ASI CEO Mignhon Tourné observed that the CU has already had a history of making these sorts of loans and ASI Senior Vice President Sarah Taylor reported that the CU has talks in the works with some area grocers.
"We have already had several conversations with grocers and restaurateurs in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods of the Ninth Ward who need financing to start or expand their businesses," she said.
"These monies from the CDFI Fund will help us make a real impact in those communities, creating new jobs and providing healthy and affordable food alternatives," Taylor said.
The $302 million ASI also was chosen recently as a community partner for community development efforts by micro-lender Kiva.org. The Ninth Ward was particularly hard-hit by the flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.