Imagine sitting at a long banquet table piled high with the most delicious, nutritious food imaginable, but when the servings are distributed, your plate remains empty. This is the reality for millions of people in California – ironic for the state which provides the nation with the vast majority of its fresh produce. The people who can’t fully partake in providing sustenance for their families live at or below the Federal definition of poverty. For a variety of reasons, they spend most of their income on housing, utilities, medical bills and other expenses, making it difficult to afford food.
Fortunately, for those who qualify, the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), called CalFresh, helps bridge the gap. In 2015, 4.4 million people in California received $142 per month in assistance to help cover their household food expenses, and in the process “lowered the state’s poverty rate by 2.4 percentage points – the largest amount among social safety net programs.”1 Of those participants, 74% were children under the age of 17.
In 2008 the USDA began to build a program to encourage SNAP participants to channel their food budget towards more fresh fruits and vegetables, with the goal of improving the overall health of the population. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant Program (FINI) does just that, by financially supporting projects that incentivize SNAP participants at the point of purchase.2
Here in Riverside County the need is just as acute as elsewhere, and 38.2% of low-income residents participate in SNAP.1 Fortunately, a coalition of over 300 Certified Farmers’ Markets across the state “received one of the first FINI grants in 2015 to distribute Market Match funds to connect 240,000 CalFresh shoppers with 2,200 of the state’s small farms, stimulating $9.8 million in fruit and vegetable sales.”3
The Certified Farmers’ Markets of the Coachella Valley, under the Palm Springs Cultural Center, is one of the CA Market Match partners. Every week at each one of the CFMCV market locations (Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta) CalFresh customers can not only use their federal nutrition incentives, distributed in wooden tokens, but can also receive up to $10 in FINI Market Match tokens for the purchase of fresh produce, bought directly from the farmers who grew them. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved and a perfect embodiment of the CFMCV’s goals of providing an economic platform for small family farmers and nourishing the communities of the Coachella Valley. For locations, times, and directions to the CFMCV markets, visit: www.certifiedfarmersmarkets.org.
Megan Goehring is the Palm Springs manager and community liaison for the Certified Farmers Markets of the Coachella Valley and is passionate about improving access to fresh, high quality food for everyone in her community. For more information about locally sourced food from small California farms, check out www.certifiedfarmersmarkets.org or call (844) 732.7628.
References: 1) http://www.ppic.org/publication/the-calfresh-food-assistance-program/