NEW YORK (9/20/11)--Donna Gambrell, director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, Wednesday announced $25 million in awards to 12 CDFIs serving food deserts in low-income neighborhoods with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The grants, made available as part of the multi-agency Healthy Food Financing Initiative, were awarded to CDFIs focused on developing solutions for increasing access to affordable healthy foods. Among the awardees under this program was ASI FCU, a community development credit union (CDCU) serving the greater New Orleans area, who received $3 million to start a new revolving loan fund to support lending to strengthen healthy food distribution in low-income areas of New Orleans. “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 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.” According to ASI FCU CEO Mignhon Tourné, the credit union was already doing this type of lending. “Two weeks ago, on the day prior to the six-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Healing Center held its grand opening in the Upper Ninth Ward, a community that has historically been low-income and predominantly African-American, and which could have been considered a food desert with respect to healthy foods, even prior to Katrina, but certainly since that terrible day,” she said. “But that grand opening was a proud moment for us because our credit union provided financing to a new food cooperative as well as a new Mediterranean restaurant that are opening at that center.” ASI FCU also opened a micro-branch at the new center and Tourné stressed that the award from the CDFI Fund would help them expand their efforts significantly. “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,” said Sarah Taylor, senior vice president at ASI FCU. “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. We’re extremely excited and still somewhat in disbelief,” Taylor said. ASI FCU also received a $1.5 million award from the CDFI Fund under its core funding round in July.