Local farmers' markets are helping low-income community members buy fresh fruits and vegetables during this pandemic.
Select farmers' markets in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have been accepting CalFresh benefits, formerly known as "Food Stamps" 2015.
Now, those farmers' markets are also participating in the "Market Match Program" where CalFresh participants can earn more money for groceries whenever they shop at farmers' markets.
When a shopper visits a participating farmers’ market, they will receive tokens or vouchers in exchange for their CalFresh (EBT) benefits. Then, they can receive an equal amount of Market Match tokens free of charge to purchase more local fruits and vegetables.
For example, a shopper at the Templeton Farmers Market can spend $15 with their EBT card and receive $30 of tokens to spend on fresh produce. CalFresh benefits are matched dollar-for-dollar up to a maximum that varies depending on the market.
“Farmers’ markets provide an essential service to the community and our local food system. It is crucial that we all work together to make sure they remain a safe place to shop for food for all our community members. With additional staffing, signage, volunteers and handwashing stations, the markets are a great place for local people to get the food they need while using their CalFresh card," said Shannon Klisch, Community Education Supervisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo County and EBT at Farmers Markets Workgroup Chair.
The manager of the North County farmers' markets said the Market Match Program is a valuable resource for community members in need during this pandemic.
"[The participants] are really thankful because it stretches their dollar. They get to come out here in the fresh air and the food is just probably picked that morning or the day before, so it's the freshest you can get, it's local," said Robyn Gable, manager of North County farmers' markets.
The following markets are open during the shelter-at-home order, accept CalFresh and participate in the Market Match program:
Market managers said they are working extra hard to keep their markets open while taking precautions to keep marketgoers and vendors safe during the pandemic.
In addition, more community members may qualify and apply for federal food assistance programs due to the rise in unemployment rates.