Rural Development Partners (RDP) works closely with New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) project stakeholders to manage risk and maximize impact. Led by team members with solid relationship lending experience, RDP has a strong track record of successful investments; however, some risks are clearly unpredictable – such as a global pandemic.
RDP’s focused prioritization and underwriting process helps ensure that the organizations selected for NMTC investments are well equipped to serve their surrounding communities through rough waters and the uncertainties of a global economy. RDP’s NMTC investments demonstrate the capacity to adapt operations, self-organize with community partners, and participate in disaster relief programs to bring much-needed resources to the community.
Atlanta Community Food Bank and Rural Northwest Georgia
No Rural Development Partners project better typifies the response of NMTC investments to uncertainty than the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Many people in the Atlanta Metro and rural northwest Georgia have recently found themselves needing food bank services for the very first time. The Atlanta Community Food Bank has extended its safety net by providing food security to working people who have lost income or safe access to food during the COVID-19 pandemic (https://acfb.org).
The Atlanta Community Food Bank initiated an innovative partnership with Second Helpings Atlanta, the region’s largest food rescue nonprofit, to start the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project. This project uses currently-closed commercial kitchens to prepare meals for food-insecure families while putting displaced food service workers back to work over the summer.
The new Atlanta Community Food Bank headquarters and distribution facility positioned the food bank to meet the unprecedented needs of the community. The Food Bank team transitioned to the larger and more efficient NMTC-financed facility only weeks before the pandemic hit. “Without the New Markets Tax Credit Investment, ACFB would not have been able to expand our facility and meet the hunger needs of our community, especially now. The incredible response we’ve been able to provide is a result of this new facility,” said Debra Shoaf, CFO.
In May of 2020, the Atlanta Community Food Bank distributed 8,003,675 lbs. of food, an increase of 35% vs May of last year. The Food Bank continues to average nearly 2M lbs. of food distributed each week.
Over the past two weeks, the Atlanta Community Food Bank began receiving boxes of fresh produce, dairy, milk and protein through a new USDA program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This program will provide the Food Bank with approximately 3M lbs. of food between June 15th and mid-July, helping to offset some of the pressure on typical food sources. The Atlanta Community Food Bank has distributed more than $300,000 in emergency grants to 89 distribution partner agencies, including the Georgia Mountain Food Bank that serves 5 of Georgia’s northern counties, and the Food Bank’s food rescue partner Second Helpings Atlanta.
Super-Pufft Snacks USA (Perry, FL)
A rural food manufacturer can also deeply impact a community. Super-Pufft Snacks USA in Perry, Florida has demonstrated its commitment to the financial and physical health of employees by continuing to operate with enhanced safety guidelines. Super-Pufft secured KN-95 masks for every employee, installed hand washing stations, and hired two nurses to screen everyone passing the entrance gate – all by April 8th. Such a proactive response demonstrates Super-Pufft’s feelings of both gratitude and responsibility for remaining open as an essential business.
Super-Pufft is not only maintaining operations but also growing. Perry’s local paper, The Taco Times, recently ran an advertisement and article announcing that Super-Pufft planned to hire more than 50 people in the coming weeks – as of June 22, they had hired 134, far exceeding the initial goal. “In a time that many companies are not able to support their full-time employees, we are proud to give hope to our community by announcing that we are hiring,” said Mahmoud Amrouch, CEO of Super-Pufft.
Bongards Creameries (Humboldt, TN)
As implications of the COVID-19 global pandemic expand beyond the nation’s ability to go to work, so do the responses of RDP’s investments. Bongards Creameries, for example, is not only continuing to pay its employees, but they are also supplying food banks, school lunch programs, and participating in the recently announced USDA COVID-19 response programs.
By April, Bongards saw a dramatic fall in demand due to nationwide business closures, necessitating a pull back on production. In order to keep all employees working full-time, the company shifted employees to special projects utilizing their unique skills and also took the time to focus on additional training opportunities such as cross-training and safety.
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program (USDA) awarded funding for 12,000 10-pound box kits of cheese to be produced and distributed weekly from June through August. The box kits range from sliced American cheese to mozzarella sticks and are distributed through food banks such as Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank. Additionally, Bongards’ recent partnership with Midwest Dairy has helped supply local food banks with cheese and other dairy products to help families in need.
About Rural Development Partners
Rural Development Partners utilizes the NMTC program to help organizations relocate and expand their operations in distressed rural communities. RDP investments help create jobs, economic growth, training opportunities, and food security for rural communities nationwide. RDP is proud to partner with organizations that take action to support their local community when the unexpected arises. The Atlanta Community Food Bank, Super-Pufft Snacks USA, and Bongards Creameries represent how extraordinary leadership and resources from NMTC projects can help local communities persevere through a crisis, resulting in more resilient and healthier places to live and work. Each of these organizations is a powerful example of leading Rural America, and the entire nation, to a stronger, brighter future.