At 153 farmers’ markets across California, the Market Match program allows low-income consumers to earn incentives that double the amount they are able to spend on fresh produce. However, only one of the five markets in San Francisco with the most CalFresh transactions was able to participate in the program last year.

Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting is designed to help change that. AB 1321 passed out of the Appropriations Committee last Thursday and a full vote on the Assembly floor is scheduled to occur this week.

The bill would create the Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program to award grants to farmers’ markets and small business to fund programs like Market Match that double the amount of money CalFresh participants are able to spend on produce. For instance, if a customer spends $10 on California grown fruits, nuts, or vegetables, they are given an additional $10 to spend on those items.

Nutrition Incentive Programs Work for Consumers and Farmers

These programs have proven successful at both encouraging additional consumption among low-income consumers and supporting local farmers. Studies have shown that the redemption of CalFresh and other nutrition benefits increases 132% to 700% at markets where Market Match is available. Further, 67% of farmers report earning more income and 69% reported attracting new customers as a result of the program.

Ting’s Bill Will Attract Necessary Funding to Expand Reach

Additionally, this bill will help California compete for $100 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nutrition incentive programs by creating a centralized application process similar to the one used by the State of Washington, which was awarded nearly $6 million this year. This funding is critical because demand for Market Match in California is often greater than the available funding. Several markets in the state are forced to limit the seasons in which they offer the program, while the vast majority of California’s 800 farmers’ markets are not able to offer the program at all.

Among those without nutrition incentive programs are the markets most visited by San Francisco CalFresh users, such as the Heart of City Farmers’ Market above the Civic Center BART station. Since AB 1321 calls for prioritizing grants in areas where the population is not currently offered an incentive program, low-income San Franciscans can expect increased access to Market Match and similar programs should Assemblymember Ting’s bill become law.  Strong approval from the state Assembly this week is an important step in that process.