Regular visitors to our local farmers’ markets know they’re a feast for the senses, a great way to shop locally, and a pleasant social outing. Shopping at a farmers’ market can also be more expensive than a trip to the supermarket or discount store, though that’s not always the case. While this reflects the true cost of growing food, it can leave some of us with tighter budgets feeling cut off from this local treasure.
Good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. Market Match opens the farmers market up to the community in new and exciting ways!
Market Match is California’s healthy food incentive program for Calfresh/EBT (“food stamp”) benefits. The program successfully redirects subsidies away from large corporate ag and into the hands of our local farmers and local families. When you use your EBT card at the farmers’ market, you’ll be offered as much as $15-$20 extra to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
The income limit to qualify for CalFresh/EBT is roughly 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. (This is about $2,000 per month for a household size of 2, or $2,900 per month for a family of four.) We know that many families are living on incomes above these limits, yet are still struggling to afford healthy food. We sure wish we had more tools to help these families, too! Nonetheless, all of us, regardless of whether or not we personally qualify for CalFresh, can feel good about a program that brings tax dollars back to our local farmers. CalFresh/EBT benefits are 100% federal funds – your tax dollars at work and coming back to our community.
All Certified Farmers’ Markets in Lake and Mendocino County offer Market Match! Using your EBT card is simple: go first to the information table at your market to swipe your card and get tokens or script for your EBT and Market Match incentives. Spend the tokens/script just like cash with vendors that sell the same items you can purchase with EBT at other stores.
According to the website MarketMatch.org, “In 2014, 61% of customers surveyed reported that Market Match was a very important consideration in their decision to spend their benefits at the farmers’ market instead of elsewhere. 79% reported that their consumption of fruits and vegetables increased as a result of the program.” In other words, getting people to try the market leads to positive changes in their health! That’s a big plus, but the benefits go way beyond that.
There are a lot of programs dedicated to helping people eat better while supporting local farmers, but none has shown results like Market Match. According to the USDA, every $1 of CalFresh spending generates $1.79 of additional local economic activity.
It makes sense that Market Match works so well when you think about it. Many of the obstacles to healthy eating are easily overcome if they’re tackled all at once. Is it too expensive? Bam! We just doubled your money, go nuts and try something new. Oh, but I don’t know how to cook (garlic scapes/fava beans/these weird-looking tiny potatoes)! Just ask. Farmers don’t grow their food and sell it as a form of punishment; they want you to love it all as much as they love bringing it to you, and they’ve got ideas they’re more than happy to share.
If you’re new to the program, start small and be fearless. Take $5 and turn it into $10 with Market Match. Walk around and see what appeals to you. Buy one thing you know you like and try one new thing for fun. Ask for recipe ideas, and use market ingredients in recipes you already know and love. Don’t be surprised if you love it and come back for more.
Come out to your next farmers market. Find the Lake or Mendocino County farmers’ market closest to you. Enjoy the weather, the good company, and the delicious food. It’s no exaggeration to say we can’t make it without you, and that’s a good thing.
The videos below (one in English and the other in Spanish) explain exactly how the program works when you are at the market: