Shopping at the farmers market is about to get a whole lot easier for hungry residents of Los Angeles County. Despite the cuts to the program brought about by the new farm bill, a $2.5 million grant from First 5 L.A. will make SNAP recipients’ food assistance go twice as far at farmers markets across the Southland.
Market Match, the program receiving the funding, will now be able to extend its doubling program—which turns $1 in SNAP into $2 of fresh fruits and vegetables—to 37 L.A. markets by 2019. Statewide, there will be 150 participating markets this year. The program, run by the Ecology Center in partnership with local market operators and nonprofits, started in Los Angeles in 2010 at just two locations with a budget of $3,000.
Not only does the program benefit Angelenos who receive SNAP or Women, Infants, and Children benefits, but it provides an economic boost for the small farmers who sell their harvest at farmers markets too. According to a study conducted by Market Match, 80 percent of vendors said they sold more produce at markets where the program was available, and 66 percent said the matching increased their revenue at those markets. The program pushes the economic influence of food-stamp spending even further than the long way it traditionally goes: A dollar spent on the program amounts to $1.73 in economic activity.
While the new farm bill reduced SNAP spending by $8 billion, there’s also $100 million of funding that will supply grants for food-stamp matching programs. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive is expected to match up to $20 million worth of farmers market purchases annually for the next five years.
Programs like Market Match are cropping up around the country as anti-hunger groups and the local food movement work to make the farmers market a more egalitarian institution. At a time when 47 million Americans are facing reduced federal nutrition assistance, local kale cannot democratize quickly enough.