Gov. Brown Approves $5M for California Nutrition Incentives Act

Sacramento, CA (MPG)  |  Source: Ecology Center
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Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

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After three years of tireless advocacy, the healthy food incentive program Market Match got a boost yesterday as Governor Jerry Brown approved a state budget that includes $5 million for the California Nutrition Incentives Act. The Act is modeled after Market Match, which is increasing access to fresh produce among Californians who are struggling to feed their families, while giving an economic boost to the state’s embattled farm communities.

The $5 million in state funds will attract federal matching dollars through the USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program (FINI) and double the impact of the state’s investment.

A broad coalition of over 200 non-profit organizations and individuals including Roots of Change, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, American Heart Association, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Hunger Action Los Angeles and the Ecology Center, which administers Market Match statewide, worked over a three-year period to secure the funding. In 2014, the coalition’s first attempt didn’t make it out of the appropriations committee. Last year, the legislature passed the California Nutrition Incentives Act, which Gov. Brown signed, but he then axed the $2.5 million in funding that the legislature proposed for the program.

“With this funding, the state of California has put its money where its mouth is in terms of supporting healthy eating for low-income families,” says Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque. “The demand for Market Match has consistently outstripped the supply of funds. The additional $5 million will allow us to expand the program towards our goal of offering Market Match at every farmers’ market in the state,” he said.

Established in 2009, by Roots of Change, Market Match works by providing CalFresh customers with matching funds when they spend their CalFresh benefits (i.e. food stamps) on fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. So a shopper who spends $10 of CalFresh benefits at the farmers’ market gets an extra $10 to spend on fresh produce. Participants in the program, both small farmers and low-income shoppers, strongly support the program.

Among low-income customers, 70% report that they are buying more fruits and vegetable, and nearly 80% report that their family's health has improved. 81% of farmers report increased sales and 74% report increased income, thanks to Market Match.

Founded in 1969, the Ecology Center is a nonprofit organization located in Berkeley, California that is actively working to create and promote an alternative food system based on the values of environmental protection, justice, and access to healthy, sustainably produced food for all.