Today, the Ecology Center is launching our new Market Match website, MarketMatch.org. This new mobile compatible website informs shoppers, funders, partners, and the general public about the Market Match program. It builds support for the program, and it assists shoppers in locating the nearest CalFresh-accessible farmers’ market, including those that offer Market Match.
Established in 2009 by partner Roots of Change, Market Match is California’s largest healthy food incentive program, matching customers’ food stamp benefits (known as CalFresh) at over 150 farmers’ markets statewide. Market Match acts as an incentive, empowered low-income shoppers to overcome financial barriers to healthy eating, and making farmers’ markets in low and mixed-income communities more viable. The Market Match program also directs a portion of California’s $7.6 billion in CalFresh to small and mid-sized farmers, some of whom come from the state’s most drought stricken rural communities.
While the Ecology Center leads Market Match, we don’t do this work all on our own. Market Match is offered through an experienced network of farmers’ market operators and community-based organizations, like local partners Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA), Phat Beets, and Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM). These partners are the backbone of the Market Match network, offering the program deep knowledge of local community context, and key local relationships that can help to promote, administer, fundraise, and advocate for the program. This power of partnership is visible in the program results on every level: from connecting greater numbers of families to healthy foods, to creating large-scale state and national food systems change.
Through partnership, Market Match has a much wider reach. The program was offered in 23 counties in 2014 and generated over $2 million in fresh fruit and vegetables purchases. With the new website’s capability to educate and bring on new farmers’ market partners, we can continue to efficiently grow the number of Market Match partners and locations, enabling this program to spread to every region of the state.
Market Match is making a difference for the families who use it. In the 2014 Market Match survey, 61% of shoppers reported that Market Match was a very important factor 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. With the new mobile compatible website, a greater number of families can easily locate farmers’ markets near them in order to increase their healthy food purchases.
The power of partnership works as an effective tool to influence legislation and policy which supports healthy food access on a greater scale. This past year, the Ecology Center, our Market Match partners, and our national counterparts, played a central role in convincing legislators to approve new funding in the 2014 Federal Farm Bill specifically for healthy food incentive programs. USDA’s new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program will fund up to $31M in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 for programs like Market Match. This is the result of years of these partners’ legislative efforts.
In 2015, the Ecology Center is once again tapping the power of these partnerships to affect significant change, by co-sponsoring the California Nutrition Incentive Act. If passed, this legislation will increase California’s share of federal funding for healthy food incentive programs, like Market Match. This legislation will make the long-term sustainability of Market Match a reality, and will be achieved only through advocates, customers, farmers, and funders, working together. The new Market Match website will also serve as a news hub for the program, offering program updates and calls-to-action on policy and legislative efforts.
We encourage everyone to visit MarketMatch.org to learn about our partners, find a location, hear news, and connect with us to help make this innovative program an even greater success.