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California Food Benefit Program Could be in Jeopardy if not Included in State Budget

California’s Nutrition Incentive Program, Market Match, doubles CalFresh benefits so that community members in need can buy fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. PHI’s Roots of Change is the founding organization of Market Match.  Funding for this program is uncertain and is being negotiated between legislative leaders and Gov. Newsom.

  • CalMatters
woman shopping for fruits and vegetables at a farmers market

“Every Thursday at the Fairfield Farmers’ Market, many customers don’t pay for their fruits and vegetables with cash, credit card or Apple Pay. Instead, they go to the information booth, swipe their CalFresh EBT card and receive paper vouchers to spend on produce.

Under Market Match, California food aid recipients get as much as $10 in matching money — meaning they have at least $20 to spend every week at their local farmers’ market.

“We already spend $200 on meat and cheese at Costco,” said Mitzi Castillo, who lives in Fairfield with two young daughters. “If I didn’t have Market Match, they would have to wait ’til next week to eat fruits and veggies when my husband gets paid.”

Castillo buys cherries, strawberries and blueberries from one of the many farmers who also reap benefits from the program, which brings customers and more cash to more than 270 farmers’ markets across the state.

“For me, I get more money, and for the people who use it, they can feed their family more,” said Salvador Navarro, a farmer from Stockton who said he makes as much as $300 from Market Match at the Fairfield Farmers’ Market, more than enough to cover the cost of his stall.

Together with his stalls across the Bay Area, Navarro says he makes $50,000, or a fourth of his income every season, from CalFresh customers and Market Match.

Market Match is the largest funding beneficiary of the California Nutrition Incentive Program, which is run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In 2022, the program provided about 38 million servings of fruits and vegetables to CalFresh participants, accounting for $19.5 million in CalFresh and Market Match spending at farmers’ markets across the state.

However, like many initiatives, the fates of Market Match and other healthy food and nutrition programs are in flux as legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom negotiate the final state budget while tackling a $31.5 billion deficit.

Although the plan that legislative Democrats pushed through on Thursday includes $35 million for the incentive program, advocates, CalFresh recipients and farmers worry that the money won’t be in the final budget.”

Click on the link below to read the full article.

Originally published by CalMatters

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