Exciting developments are afoot in Sacramento: thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Ecology Center, Roots of Change, Public Health Institute, and Latino Coalition for a Health California, the California Nutrition Incentive Act (AB 1321) was introduced on Friday by Assemblymember Phil Ting. Coauthored by Rob Bonta, Lois Wolk, Marc Levine, and Henry Perea, the bill would establish a state grant program for healthy food access programs like Market Match. This pool of state funding would also draw federal Farm Bill matching funds, doubling California’s resources for these successful programs.
A couple years ago, the Ecology Center became the lead organization to expand Market Match throughout California. Initially started by Roots of Change, the program incentivizes low-income shoppers by doubling the value of their food stamp benefits when they purchase California-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables at farmers’ markets. It’s a triple win for low-income families, small and mid-sized farms, and local economies. Market Match has already shown its effectiveness: in five years, over 11 million servings of fruit and vegetables have been eaten by low-income shoppers because of this program; and over half of the 773 farmers served by the program said they make more money and sell more fruits and vegetables.
Driven by the success of Market Match and similar pilot programs operating across the country, the Ecology Center joined forces with allies like Roots of Change, Wholesome Wave, and the Fair Food Network, to ask politicians in Washington to include money in the Farm Bill for these kinds of incentives. Because they bolster the health of low-income shoppers, the livelihood of farmers, and the economic vitality of rural communities, the appeal of these programs crosses political divides. In a rare win, federal legislators included funds in the Farm Bill for Market Match-type programs. But these funds are only accessible if states or local organizations are able to contribute matching funds. That’s what AB 1321 is designed to do.
AB 1321 is a local economic development, anti-poverty and anti-hunger policy all rolled up into one bill — and it’s evidence-based. We’re grateful that our local Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond are advocates for healthy food access and supportive of this bill. We’ll keep you in the loop as this bill proceeds through the legislative process.