Grace Fricks, President and CEO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), announced a new healthy food financing initiative for small businesses on September 28, 2011, at a meeting of the Georgia Supermarket Access Task Force hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

ACE has received $500,000 from the Department of Treasury’s CDFI Fund to provide loans to supermarkets and food retail outlets in downtown areas considered “food deserts.” The loans will be used to add fresh food inventory and make improvements that will increase resident choice.

The competitive funding was sought after the Food Trust of Philadelphia completed a study on food access throughout the state. Food for Every Child concluded that many Atlanta neighborhoods have few or no supermarkets within a reasonable travel distance. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention ties this lack to childhood obesity, and indeed, Georgia ranks second in the nation for percent of children who are obese.

“ACE’s loan fund is a key piece of the puzzle to addressing this issue,” said John Bare, Vice President for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. “It will provide needed capital to support new or existing businesses that want to offer fresh food options.” The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, a Blank Foundation program, provided funding to support the Food Trust’s Georgia study.

Funds will be available January 1, 2012, Fricks said.