Agricultural Institute of Marin's Market Match program offers double value for food stamps at Marin farmers markets
More and more Californians are finding it difficult to feed their families. Recent statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate that over 3 million California residents receive food stamp benefits (known nationally as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and in California as CalFresh). Marin County is not immune to these issues. In September, 8,957 individuals in Marin were enrolled in CalFresh, with nearly 11,000 eligible but not yet participating. Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) is committed to being part of the solution by increasing access to and affordability of nutritious, fresh, locally grown food.
AIM began accepting CalFresh (food stamps) at its certified farmers markets in 2008 with support from a two-year grant from the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. CalFresh recipients can now use their EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards at all of AIM’s eight Bay Area certified farmers’ markets. Shoppers have their EBT card processed at the Information Tent at each market, and receive tokens. Tokens can be used throughout the market to purchase breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish, poultry and dairy products; as well as seeds and plants that produce food for the household. (Unallowed items include: hot, prepared foods and any non-food items). Many farmers in the markets also accept WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and Senior Farmers Market vouchers directly. All of these efforts combined help make the farmers markets and the high quality fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to people at all income levels.
AIM’s newest program to increase access to local and nutritious food is Market Match, which began this Fall at AIM’s farmers markets located in Marin. Made possible with support from Marin Community Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, Market Match essentially doubles the value of the benefits, providing a match of up to $20 per market day for shoppers using EBT cards. For example, when a customer uses $20 from their EBT card, they will receive $40 worth of tokens to purchase allowed items throughout the market.
Market Match is available at the following AIM certified farmers markets: Marin Farmers Markets at the Civic Center (Thursdays and Sundays from 8 am - 1 pm, year-round), Novato Farmers Market (Tuesday from 4-8 pm, May through Sept), and Fairfax Farmers Market (Wednesday from 4-8 pm, May through Sept). AIM is currently looking for funders/partners to expand the double value program into its other markets in the Bay Area, including AIM farmers markets in Alameda County and San Francisco, where the need is great.
“Our goal with Market Match is to encourage more people to shop at farmers markets, increase revenue for farmers and producers, and to increase access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food for everyone in our community,” said Leah Smith, Agricultural Institute of Marin’s Director of Programs.
For more information about Market Match or AIM’s programs and farmers markets, view a printable PDF in English and Spanish, visit www.agriculturalinstitute.org, or call (415) 472-6100.
By Sarah Darcey-Martin, Agricultural Institute of Marin