(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) that will help California obtain millions of dollars in federal funds to provide incentives for low-income Californians receiving food stamps to shop at farmers’ markets.
“We must improve access to nutritious food because diet is the foundation for health,” said Ting. “California has unmatched agricultural bounty and the largest network of farmers’ markets that must be more effectively harnessed to fight malnutrition and hunger. Today’s signature will help us make the healthiest choice an easier choice for millions of Californians living in poverty.”
Ting’s AB 1321 creates the California Nutrition Incentives Act. The bill was inspired by the Market Match program now administered by the Berkeley-based Ecology Center. Market Match operates at over 150 farmers’ markets across California. It “matches” or doubles the purchasing power of families receiving food stamps – aka the CalFresh Program or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - shopping at farmers’ markets. This incentive has increased food stamp purchases at farmers’ markets up to 700 percent.
In order to expand Market Match, AB 1321 directs the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture to obtain federal funding to provide incentives for food stamp recipients to consume more fresh produce by shopping at farmers’ markets. The federal farm bill of 2014 set aside $100 million for this purpose through the Food insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program.
Other states have taken a leadership role in obtaining these funds for their residents. Their success shows the need for California to do the same, as directed through Ting’s bill. In April, the federal government announced the first found of FINI grants. Many of the largest grants went to states like Washington and Massachusetts, which coordinated state efforts targeting these funds.
“California should get more of these funds than any other state because of our poverty challenges and our network of farmers’ markets,” added Ting. “By making this a priority, we can help more of California’s needy families and our farmers too.”
With over 400 commodities in production, California has unparalleled agricultural diversity. It also has over 700 farmers’ markets - the largest network of any state. Over 11 million Californians live in poverty and 4 million struggle with food insecurity - or inadequate access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food.
AB 1321 passed the Assembly 60-18 and the Senate 30-8 last month. Here is what supporters are saying about the bill.
"With AB 1321, the Legislature and the Governor will create a pathway for all California's farmer markets to offer Market Match nutrition incentives and will have set the stage for every small grocery store to eventually do the same. This bill improves the lives of our state’s hungriest families and most hard working farmers."
-Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change
“The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California applauds Assemblyman Ting on his forward looking legislation that will help vulnerable populations in California to meet their nutritional needs. AB 1321--Market Match--will be a valuable tool to both increase access to healthy food options for CalFresh recipients, as well as support our farmers’ markets, and our small scale farmers. AB 1321 will be a Win-Win-Win for California!”
-Xavier Morales, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
“While California is now the world’s 7th largest economy, we still have the highest poverty rate nationally. Limited resources for purchasing food has a dramatic impact on health and increases the risk of developing preventable chronic diseases, like diabetes, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color in California.”
-Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center
“We believe that California and the nation will be more healthy and resilient if we enhance food system infrastructures that make healthy food accessible and affordable. This bill contributes to the physical health of individuals, the economic health of small farms and rural communities. It is a win-win solution that cannot be missed.”
-Matthew Marsom, Vice President for Public Policy and Programs, Public Health Institute
“We help thousands of low-income customers afford more fruits and vegetables at the heart of the most expensive city in the nation. EBT sales have increased by a third after offering Market Match starting in June. This is a welcome source of additional revenue for small farmers struggling to survive the worst drought in California’s history.”
-Kate Creps, Executive Director, San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers’ Market
“A 2013 evaluation of Market Match reported an average six-fold return, and serves a local economic development strategy for farming communities up and down the state. Participating growers have cited additional income from incentives as the reason for adding staff or acreage.”
-Ben Feldman, Chair, California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets
“Economic support for organic farmers is critical during these times of extreme drought and climate change because they conserve water, improve soil quality, sequester carbon, increase biodiversity, create pollinator habitats, and build drought resilience. Thus, we support AB 1321 because it offers economic support for organic farmers who work to improve California’s environmental health.”
-Kelly Damewood, Policy Director, California Certified Organic Farmers
“Ensuring that individuals and families have ready access to essential resources, such as nutritious food, helps households lead healthy, productive lives- and keep struggling Californians from falling further into poverty.”
-Alexis Fernandez, Director of Legislation, California Food Policy Advocates
Further information about AB 1321 is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.