2022 is a special year for us at Capital Impact Partners as it marks our 40th anniversary. Four decades of leaning into helping people build communities of opportunity and developing pathways to success.
And while this is an exciting time for us as we embark on a new strategy under Momentus Capital, it is equally important to remember our roots as a champion for the cooperative movement.
By Mary Donnell, Program Manager, Michigan Good Food Fund
The grocery business is more competitive than ever. Even in normal times, much of the market share is taken up by the big-box players. But in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, local, independent grocers are focusing more deliberately on serving their communities, going out of their way to provide the goods that customers that they often know by name need. These grocers continue to fill an important niche in the landscape, often serving communities that do not see much investment from national chains with top-notch customer service and a focus on community development and local food.
Each year at Capital Impact Partners, we host an offsite, where all staff comes together to discuss successes and challenges in our work, and strategizes how we can continue to commit to the communities that we serve for greater social impact. This year, we held our offsite in our backyard: Washington, D.C. Being a mission-driven organization, we also sought to live out our values and be “of” our Washington, D.C. communities by getting out from behind our desks and serving those who need the most support.
Community engagement is a critical component to our work at Capital Impact, particularly as supporters of innovative community-based work. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), we support community-driven solutions that address the economic, social and racial justice barriers to success in our most underserved communities. Having first-hand knowledge of our communities and their needs helps us ensure that the projects we support have the outcomes our clients need.
With our home base in the Washington D.C. area, we strive to be present and engaged in the city’s communities. We work with organizations across the city to address various issues of structural exclusion and poverty. One of the areas that Capital Impact focuses on in this effort is healthy food access. Our strategic focus on health care and healthy food ties directly into our call to help communities achieve their full potential. We all need access to healthy food to thrive.
California may be an agricultural center of the nation, but more than one million Californians live in neighborhoods without easy access to a full service grocery store. This lack of access to fresh foods can lead to poor health outcomes and diet-related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Communities of color are disproportionately affected. Capital Impact Partners has worked for years to address this issue, and to help more communities get access to grocery stores or mobile markets.
Picture it: the freezer breaks and you’re scrambling to save all your frozen food. In a home, a big cooler or the generosity of a neighbor may solve your problem – but for a grocery store, the goods in a broken freezer cannot be housed at a neighbor’s house until the freezer is fixed.
The freezer, top of the line when it was purchased in the 1970s, was just one challenge faced by First Alternative Cooperative, a community co-op market in Corvallis, Oregon. Along with replacing equipment, including its critical point-of-sale system, which was past its prime, the grocery store needed to make some building improvements and consolidate debt to improve its cash flow.
There is no doubt that improving access to fresh, nutritious foods in low-income communities can help people improve eating habits and prevent diet-related diseases, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
But the impacts for people and communities are even greater than that.
For many of us, a weekend trip to the grocery store or farmers market to buy fresh produce is such a regular part of our routine that it hardly merits a second thought. But for many others, access to fresh produce may be an hour-long bus ride away. A balanced diet is necessary for health and wellness, but not everyone has access to good nutrition. More than 23 million Americans live in areas where fresh food isn’t easily accessible, and many are residents of inner city, underserved communities.