The CalFresh Market Match Program Makes Hyper-Local Produce Accessible to Everyone


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The CalFresh Market Match Program Makes Hyper-Local Produce Accessible to Everyone

April 15, 2024
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The CalFresh Market Match Program Makes Hyper-Local Produce Accessible to Everyone

The CalFresh Market Match Program Makes Hyper-Local Produce Accessible to Everyone

The Market Match program helps CalFresh shoppers get more for their money at California Farmers Markets and positively impacts small farms and the local economy. Talk about a win-win scenario. 

What are the CalFresh and Market Match Programs?

The CalFresh and Market Match programs aim to tackle food insecurity in California. The CalFresh program provides participants with the means to purchase food, while the Market Match Program increases access to fresh fruits and vegetables. 

What is the CalFresh program?

CalFresh, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, provides an essential hunger safety net for low-income Californians. The once deeply stigmatized federal food stamp program left many of those with food insecurity reluctant to apply for or use the program.

people handing each other a red onion at a farmers market

CalFresh is a sleeker, more modern version of the program that targets both the erasing of stigma and getting food to those who need it most. Participants are issued monthly food benefits on a discreet EBT card that is accepted at most grocery stores and farmers markets.

What can you buy with your CalFresh EBT Card?

CalFresh benefits can be used to buy food, or seeds to grow your own food. For most, CalFresh benefits are food focused so cannot be used to purchase pet food, household supplies, or food that is heated (or eaten) in the store. Sadly, rotisserie chicken and Costco pizza slices are off the table.

Where can you use CalFresh?

Most grocery stores and Farmers Markets accept CalFresh. A growing number of retailers are allowing participants to use their EBT cards for grocery pick-up or online grocery orders. 

woman looking at a produce display - you can use your cal fresh card at most grocery stores and farmers markets

What is the Market Match program?

The Market Match program offers a dollar-for-dollar match (up to ten dollars) to farmers market customers with CalFresh cards. That means that if you use your CalFresh card to make a ten-dollar purchase at a participating farmers market, you’ll receive ten additional dollars to buy more fresh fruits or veggies! 

How the Market Match program benefits individuals and communities

The Market Match program has a positive impact on CalFresh participants, small to medium-sized farmers and rural communities.

How the Market Match program changes the lives of CalFresh participants

Market Match makes locally-grown produce accessible to low-income individuals. According to the Market Match 2023 Impact Report, participants’ purchasing power grew to over 38 million servings of locally-grown fruits and veggies. Earlier data indicated that over 70% of the individuals and families using Market Match report that the increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables had improved their health. 

JSM produce at Farmers Market - even small farmers benefit from the CalFresh Market Match.

How the Market Match program benefits small farmers

In 2023, Market Match purchases totaled over 19 million dollars! That money goes directly into the pockets of small farmers and over 80% of participating farmers report an increase in sales, allowing them to expand their operations.

How the Market Match program impacts local communities

When participating farmers can expand their operations, that creates new jobs in the community. Additionally, experts also estimate that every dollar invested in the Market Match Program results in an additional three dollars that goes into to the local economy. 

Nicole Zahm, of the Santa Cruz Farmers Market explains how market match has been successful

Here’s what Nicole Zahm, Communications and Programs Manager of five Santa Cruz Farmers Markets, has to say about the Market Match program:

“What I have learned about something like Market Match: where we increase the dollars that people can spend on regional foods through the farmers markets is that those dollars, when spent in this economy, quadruple what is spent in the farmers market programs. So those people who are eligible and are using that system are actually helping our economy and not taking away from it. And in the market culture, we celebrate it! This program has made such a positive impact on our markets! Last year, over $600K was spent across the five local markets with EBT and Market Match. That amount of money can make or break some of our market vendors.”

Learn more about a few of the participating Farmers Markets! 

Santa Cruz Farmers Markets

For over 30 years, Santa Cruz Farmers Markets have been offering local shoppers the best in regional organic produce, pasture-raised meats, eggs, dairy, sustainably harvested seafood, and artisan goods – all while supporting responsible and ecological farming practices in the region.

A booth at the farmers market
man perusing berries at the Santa Barbara farmers market from Salt and Wind

Santa Barbara Farmers Markets

Santa Barbara, as everyone knows, has stunning beaches, world-class wineries, and top-notch restaurants, but it’s also home to some of the best farmers markets in the state. Our friends at Salt and Wind share their essential guide to the Santa Barbara Farmers Markets.

What’s it like to be a vendor at a Farmers Market?

Gianni Raines Zone Nine Microgreens, standing in front of his grow room

Zone 9 Farms

Meet Gianni Raines, founder of Zone 9 Farms. Gianni shares how the Vineyard Farmers Market has helped his Central Valley microgreen farm reach a new level of success.

JSM Organics

Second-generation farmer Javier Zamora has always understood the importance of agriculture. Initially pursuing a career in the restaurant industry, Javier returned to his farming roots in 2012 founding JSM Organics. Today, he’s proud to make healthy food accessible to the local community. 

Javier Zamora JSM Organics
Kathy and justino Topete

Topete Family Farms

The Topete Family proves the American Dream is still alive and well in Central California. Kathy and Justino went from working in the fields to owning their own family farm and selling their grapes at farmers markets throughout the state.

Article by Hilary Rance. Photography courtesy of James Collier, Salt and Wind and Leah Judson.

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