Ecology Center Partners with First 5 LA to Expand Market Match to 37 Farmers’ Markets with $2.5 Million Grant

20140506marketmatchOur efforts to expand our healthy food program statewide celebrated a big success in LA County this past weekend. The press release that went out for the celebration provides a snapshot of the program, our partners, and what impact this collaboration is having for low-income families and farmers in the Los Angeles area. Read on to check it out!

The recently passed federal Farm Bill included $8 billion dollars in cuts to the Food Stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This decrease is estimated to result in 850,000 low income US families losing as much as $90 per month in food assistance. Market Match, an innovative California healthy food program, is helping to fill some of the gaps that these cuts created for the state’s neediest families, while also generating vital new revenue for farmers selling at farmers’ markets.

Thanks to a $2.5 million grant from First 5 LA, the largest infusion of funds in the program’s five-year history, Market Match is launching a five-year expansion on May 3rd that aims to increase access to healthy foods for families at 37 Los Angeles area farmers’ markets by 2018. The expansion will more than double the number of local markets participating in the program.

“This very important public health partnership will benefit thousands of Angelenos who will now be able to provide their families with the nutrition that is essential for a healthy quality of life,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The program doubles shoppers’ CalFresh and WIC nutrition benefits at participating farmers markets and allows them to purchase more healthy fruits and vegetables. So if a customer spends $10 of their allotted benefit, they are given an extra $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables.

“First 5 LA is pleased to support Market Match and reinforce the important role it plays to help encourage low income families to become life-long consumers of healthy foods,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA. “Their work will help us meet our goal that children maintain a healthy weight by providing improved access to fresh fruit and vegetables.”

In addition to helping shoppers in low-income neighborhoods like South and East Los Angeles, where fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables weren’t always available, Market Match is also helping local farmers’ bottom lines. In a 2013 Market Match survey, 80% of farmers reported that they sold more fruits and vegetables, 69% had new customers and 66% made more money as a result of the Market Match program. 18% of farmers even reported that they were planting new acreage as a result of the program.

The Market Match program is currently offered at 150 markets statewide in 19 different counties. The program was founded in 2009 by Roots of Change and is now led by the Ecology Center. Market Match is a highly collaborative program engaging a statewide consortium of farmers’ market operators and community based organizations, including the Los Angeles-based groups Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEELA) and Hunger Action LA (HALA).

“I am very proud that First 5 LA, SEE-LA, Hunger Action Los Angeles (HALA) and The Ecology Center have partnered to increase the number of Farmers’ Markets in LA that accept Market Match in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts,” said Mayor Garcetti.

First 5 LA’s generous grant is allowing Market Match to expand to four new LA area farmers’ markets this month, and two more in July. Based on 2013 data, Market Match partners SEE-LA and HALA estimate that in the next year, they will distribute almost $198,000 in Market Match incentives to LA families with kids 0-5, and that those families will spend approximately $950,000 at participating farmers’ markets in CalFresh and WIC benefits alone.

“First 5 LA is a leader in California by funding this important expansion of Market Match, a program that’s a win-win-win–for low-income families, for farmers and for the community at large,” said Martin Bourque, the Ecology Center’s Executive Director. “Our hope is that other counties will adopt a similar approach throughout the state.”

There’s support from the California legislature as well. AB 2385, a bill that aims to create state funding to match federal USDA dollars in order to further expand Market Match throughout the state, was unanimously passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee yesterday. Roots of Change recently released a report on the successful four‐year pilot of the Market Match program, which you can review by clicking here.

In conjunction with CalFresh Awareness Month in May and to inaugurate the expansion of the Market Match program in Los Angeles, local Market Match partners SEELA, HALA and the Ecology Center will be hosting a First 5 LA Market Match expansion kick-off event at the Watts Healthy Farmers’ Market on Saturday, May 3rd from 10am – 2pm. The event will feature family-friendly activities such as face painting, cooking demos and a smoothie bike. LA DPSS will bring out its mobile enrollment unit to enroll customers in CalFresh at the market.

In addition, there will be a “carrot rope cutting” ceremony with local elected officials at 11:30am. The public is invited to join in on the fun on May 3rd and to visit the Farmers’ Market Finder at FMFinder.org to find a farmers’ market near them that offers Market Match.


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