Farmers’ markets make it possible for surrounding community members to buy local and fresh produce encouraging healthier communities while supporting small, local farms. Over 300 farmers’ markets across California accept CalFresh EBT, the program formerly known as Food Stamps and nationally called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) As of 2013, 140 of these farmers’ markets were participants in the statewide Market Match Program that matches SNAP dollars spent at farmers’ markets by shoppers, enabling them to buy more fresh produce. Any farmers’ market that accepts SNAP benefits is eligible to participate in the Market Match Program and could receive funding from the Ecology Center to do so. Some markets have capacity to do their own fundraising, but choose to join the Market Match Program for the extra benefits of being part of a statewide program, such as technical assistance, outreach, marketing, joining a learning community and other forms of support. The Market Match Program is primarily funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
The Market Match program was founded by Roots of Change in 2009 and because of their demonstrated leadership and experience, in 2013 the program was handed over to The Ecology Center. The Ecology Center has been assisting farmers’ markets in adding CalFresh EBT access since 2003 when paper Food Stamps went to EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards. The Ecology Center’s experience and leadership with CalFresh EBT and their work to convene farmers’ markets around the state will help bring the program into the future and enable the Market Match program to be offered at more markets across the state. The Market Match Program is administered by the California Market Match Consortium, a collaborative group consisting of community based organizations and farmers’ market operators all running Market Match. Currently, the consortium has 12 members, but will expand to 15 in 2014. As the lead organization, The Ecology Center provides overall programmatic direction, fundraising and promotional and technical assistance, and helps to develop the program’s central messaging.
In order to increase awareness of the Market Match Program, the Ecology Center launched the Farmers’ Market Finder in January (FMFinder.org) The Finder uses an interactive map to show shoppers which markets accept SNAP benefits, and which markets offer the Market Match Program. It is accessible via the Ecology Center’s website and as a mobile application. The Finder was piloted through a partnership with Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services through SNAP-Ed funding and has helped to increase the amount of EBT transactions at farmers’ markets to date.
For more information, visit: www.ecologycenter.org/food or contact Carle Brinkman, Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org