Recipients of EBT – Electronic Balance Transfer, also known as CalFresh – will soon have even more incentive to visit local farmers’ markets.
In partnership with Connecting Point – a public agency providing programs and services that promote the health and independence of people in the community – several markets in the region will launch the Market Match program as the markets move forward in what is arguably their busiest season.
The Market Match program allocates federal funding to help those who receive CalFresh benefits by providing 10 free tokens for every 10 purchased using an EBT card, with a limit of $10 EBT per visit. Recipients simply visit the Connecting Point booth at each market, choose their allocation up to $10, and receive a match in funds spent. If not spent that day, the tokens can be transferred to a future market. All EBT recipients are eligible to participate.
A national program, Market Match’s funding comes from the federal level, with $40,000 allocated to Nevada County markets alone this year.
Brett Shady, community engagement specialist at Connecting Point, said last year only $22,000 of that was used locally.
Shady does not hesitate to point out the virtues of the Market Match program.
“Besides the obvious benefits of having more money to spend on food and having more of it,” he said, “it’s also fresher, offers more variety, you’re supporting farms local family, you know where it comes from and the people who choose it, and it will help you stay connected to the community.
“I understand that historically (EBT recipients) have been maligned, but now people are hurting even more,” he added. “People are losing their homes and having to pay so much more for everything. I think people get to the point where they just need a little help.
Inez Rodriguez is the farmers market manager for Connecting Point and said the Market Match program has had a positive impact on those who use it.
“Some people come to the market and cry for being so grateful to have that extra money,” she said. “I tell them, it’s your taxes at work, don’t feel bad.”
Rodriguez added that the Truckee Farmers Market will participate in the program for the first time this year, with each EBT recipient receiving a one-time $30 voucher to use at one of the 2022 markets.
The Market Match program will be honored locally at the Nevada City Farmers Market on Saturdays through Nov. 19; and Grass Valley Markets – Tuesdays at Pine Creek Center, through September; and Saturdays at McKnight Crossing, until November 19.
Shady and Rodriguez said that overall, participating vendors have been supportive of the program. Each vendor redeems their tokens received at the Connecting Point stand at the end of each market and receives payment for their wares, which range from farm-fresh produce to locally sourced meats.
For now, Connecting Point is stepping up its efforts to raise awareness of the Market Match program.
“I think (the program) is flying above people’s radar,” Shady said. “It’s hard to get people’s attention, but the news spreads slowly. It’s a bargain – you get better products than at the store and more.
Jennifer Nobles is a writer for The Union. She can be contacted at [email protected]