Partnering to support nutrition incentive programs at farmers markets provides increased access to healthy food for CalFresh recipients and generated over $380,000 in revenue for local farms.
For low-income community members, CalFresh/SNAP incentive programs can increase their purchasing power, help reduce hunger, and improve nutrition. Farmers market nutrition incentives provide economic benefits to local farmers and communities, reduce food miles traveled, and can increase access to healthy food in low-income communities. In San Luis Obispo County eight year-round farmers markets accept CalFresh and offer the market incentive Market Match. However, these programs are underutilized, and many low-income shoppers are unaware or uncertain about where and how to use their CalFresh card.
How UC Delivers
To increase access to farmers market incentive programs and address barriers, UC staff convened partners through the EBT at Farmers Markets working group of the San Luis Obispo Food System Coalition. The work group includes partners from multiple sectors, including agriculture, government, private industry, and community-based organizations. The purpose of the work group is to increase the use of CalFresh at farmers markets to 1) create equitable access to healthy food and 2) support for local farmers. Through this work group, partners have collaborated to increase the visibility of farmers market incentives through social media, text messaging, materials distribution to local client-serving organizations, press releases, paid advertisements, and promotion at local food bank distributions and farmers markets.
Key work group partner representatives (n=6) were surveyed in September 2021 using the Wilder Collaboration Factors Survey. This survey includes 44 evidence-based items for collaboratives. Strengths are indicated by an average score of 4.0 to 5.0, while areas needing attention are 3.9 or lower. Strengths reported by respondents included: skilled leadership (4.3), unique purpose (4.3), mutual respect and trust (4.4). Weaknesses and areas of growth included: adequate funds (2.7) and time (2.7), and having all the organizations that we need as members of the group (3.2).
To address some of the issues related to time and resources, the work group applied for and received $30,000 in funding from the Danone Foundation to pilot a Farmers Market Navigator program to increase access to farmers market incentives among Hispanic and Latino customers who use CalFresh.
Since 2017, when UC started convening the EBT at Farmers Markets work group, we have seen a 171% increase in CalFresh and Market Match redemption. Research has shown that access to fruits and vegetables supports healthy eating behaviors and improved health outcomes. Additionally, these purchases have generated a total of $386,000 in direct income to local farmers and farmers markets.
In addition, the work group has supported two additional markets in launching their Market Match program and has advocated for and achieved a regional standard incentive amount of $15 from Paso Robles in northern San Luis Obispo County to Lompoc in northern Santa Barbara County. This regional standard simplifies communication to low-income clientele and ensures a meaningful and standardized food budget when clients shop at local farmers markets.
Increasing access to local fruits and vegetables supports UC ANR's public values of safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians and promoting healthy people and communities.
Our favorite quote:
“This work group really helped our market to be accepted into the Market Match program. I think without the visibility and partnership that this work group provided, we would not have been considered for Market Match. So you all should really feel good about that and thank you.”
– Farmers market manager and work group partner