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USDA Announces $2.8M Grant to Support Local and Regional Healthy Food in Maine

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Coastal Enterprises aims to expand financing for local food producers in 2025

Bangor, April 17, 2024USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson today announced a grant of $2.8M to help build food system financing capacity in Maine. The grant comes through USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) program. Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) will lead the project in partnership with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF). The partnership will use the grant to build out the infrastructure of a new food system investment fund and to increase access to existing financial resources and technical assistance.

“USDA Rural Development is proud to partner with the State and CEI to support this transformative work to strategically invest in Maine food and farm businesses,” said Director Hampson. “This grant reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to increase the resilience of local food production and create fairer markets for all producers. The critical work of structuring financing and grant programs will pay dividends for years to come.

Through HFFI the USDA helps fund local, state, and regional organizations that partner together to provide financing and technical assistance to food retailers in underserved communities. USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small was in Albuquerque, NM this morning to celebrate the newly announced HFFI projects. Today’s awards include sixteen grants nationwide across twenty states and Washington, D.C. Maine’s $2.8M grant represents 7% of the total investment.

No matter where you live across America, you should be able to get affordable, fresh, and healthy food," said Deputy Secretary Torres Small. "President Biden and USDA are working to strengthen local and regional food systems so affordable, locally grown foods are available closer to home.”

Through the remainder of 2024 and early 2025, CEI will use the HFFI funding to structure the new food system investment fund, including hiring staff, establishing policies, and assembling an advisory council. Once established, the fund will provide loans, credit enhancements, and specialized technical assistance for value-added processing businesses, local distributors, and retail operations. DACF will support that work and will leverage HFFI resources to amplify other economic development programs, including its Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program.

The partnership in Maine between CEI and DACF is a robust example of public-private collaboration. Both USDA and DACF have partnered with CEI to finance food processing infrastructure in the past. In 2023, the USDA awarded the nonprofit $8M under the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program. Throughout the pandemic, DACF partnered with CEI on major initiatives to support food processing in Maine utilizing federal CARES Act and ARPA funds.

A blue sign reads "Welcome State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry." There is a tree overhead and a brick building and lawn behind the sign.

DACF's Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources will implement the project for the Department. Bureau Director Craig Lapine said the project, “will add to an ecosystem of finance and technical assistance resources that will strengthen Maine’s ability to finance our regional food system. It represents another chapter in a longstanding public/private partnership, and we see a bright future of ongoing, synergistic investments across State and CEI programs. This investment in the food system will strengthen the state’s ability to feed Maine citizens from the healthy food produced on Maine farms.”

USDA last awarded HFFI grants in Maine in June 2022 to the Cooperative Development Institute in Lewiston, Land and Furrow LLC in Skowhegan, and Good Tern Co-op in Rockland. Together these successful proposals received a total of $536K.

Land and Furrow LLC was formed in 2021 by Amber Lambke, the founder and CEO of Maine Grains, to build a permanent indoor space and outdoor plaza for the Skowhegan Farmer’s Market. Land and Furrow used the USDA grant to pay for pre-construction engineering expenses to develop farmers’ market infrastructure in Skowhegan. The 27-year-old market provides local food and nutrition assistance programs for low-income families as well as business opportunities for local farms and food producers. Like the CEI project announced today, this grant helped lay the groundwork for a long-term project that will ultimately expand markets and improve food access.  

“As we have seen with prior HFFI grants in Maine, federal funding can accelerate local food initiatives,” said Director Hampson. “Today’s announcement signals an important investment in Maine’s food system and a win from every perspective. Businesses will benefit from new financing options and technical assistance. For consumers, it will mean a more reliable food chain. Just as importantly, the work will help build a more equitable food system to support health and economic vibrancy for all Mainers.”

About the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI)

This announcement is part of USDA’s comprehensive set of efforts, bolstered by funding made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, to create more and better markets that benefit both producers and American consumers. HFFI is designed to support new and expanded markets for a diversity of growers while helping people access healthy foods. Visit www.investinginfood.com for more information.

Authorized by the Farm Bill, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative projects improve access to healthy foods in underserved areas, create and preserve quality jobs, and revitalize low-income communities. USDA implements the program in partnership with Reinvestment Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution. Reinvestment Fund raises capital, provides financial and technical assistance to regional, state, and local partnerships, and helps fund projects to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved areas. Program funding comes primarily from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

HFFI funds can be used to:

  • Support new or existing partnerships, such as state or local food funds or financing programs.
  • Explore, establish, or grow a healthy food financing fund for underserved communities.
  • Increase internal and external capacity building.
  • Identify and improve access to seed capital.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. To subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit the GovDelivery Subscriber Page.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.


About Coastal Enterprises

CEI is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution with a mission to build a just, vibrant, and climate-resilient future for people and communities in Maine and rural regions. It integrates finance, business expertise, and policy solutions in ways that make the economy work more equitably. CEI’s 68-member staff are experts in business advising and financing; workforce and financial development; and industries including aquaculture, farming, childcare, food, and renewable energy.

CEI has invested in Maine’s food systems and agriculture since its founding in 1977 and has placed over $29 million in loans and investments, leveraging $103.5 million from partners, and preserving or creating 2,250 jobs. $16 million of that total has been lent in the last five years and, in the last decade, CEI provided more than 2,200 hours of technical assistance to its borrowers. (Learn more at ceimaine.org.)