Cincinnati Co-Op Grocery Effort Apple Street Market Wins $80,000 Grant

The award from the United States Department of Agriculture is another step toward the market becoming a reality, organizers say

Aug 28, 2019 at 2:07 pm
An early rendering of the proposed Apple Street Market - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
An early rendering of the proposed Apple Street Market

Northside-based cooperative grocery initiative the Apple Street Market will receive an $80,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture's Health Food Financing Initiative, representatives from the co-op effort have announced.

Apple Street has been working to establish a worker and community-owned grocery store in Northside since 2014 to replace a Save A Lot location that closed in the neighborhood. The nearest grocery store to the bustling, otherwise-walkable neighborhood is currently about a mile and a half away. 

Organizers with Apple Street hope to remedy that with a store that will offer fresh food and other groceries affordable to a wide swath of the surrounding population.

The co-op effort is one of 23 initiatives receiving an inaugural round of funding from the USDA program, which is aimed at expanding access to fresh food in areas where its availability is limited. Ten of those projects, including Apple Street, will receive financial help totaling $1.4 million, while another 13 will receive a total of $400,000 in technical assistance. More than 240 applicants from 46 states were vying for the grants. 

Reinvestment Fund, a national financial institution that administered the grants, says they're about revitalizing communities in an equitable way. 

“Access to healthy food is about more than making sure all Americans have easy access to nutritious, affordable food — it is also about strengthening local economies and community infrastructure,” said Reinvestment Fund President and CEO Don Hinkle-Brown in a news release. “The response to this funding opportunity is indicative of the immense need and the innovative approaches communities are undertaking to support equitable access to fresh, healthy food for everyone.”

Last year, Apple Street seemed close to securing the funding necessary to open a store at the former Save A Lot location in Northside, which the neighborhood's community development corporation NEST purchased with the help of $400,000 from the City of Cincinnati. However, a series of events toppled much of that financing, and now NEST says it must explore other options for the building.

Apple Street, for its part, says it has raised $700,000 this year to finance the market, including the USDA grant, and could receive a major philanthropic gift if it can secure a location. As of February this year, the cooperative had more than 1,200 shareholders. 

In late January, Columbus-based Finance Fund withdrew $900,000 in seed financing from the project because Apple Street had not yet raised enough operating capital. But that was just the start of the bad news.

The market in February was supposed to close on New Market Tax Credits worth $1.5 million in financing for development costs. But PNC, the investor in those credits, withdrew from many of its 2019 new market projects due to devaluation in the credits caused by tax reforms passed by Congress in 2017. 

The Cincinnati Development Fund held the credits. Because of the financing difficulties, CDF had to allocate them to other projects, though Apple Street organizers say CDF could commit future tax credits to the project.