Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. (Local Incentive for Food and Economy) is a Market Match program available in Sonoma and Marin counties that makes locally grown, fresh food more affordable to CalFresh (food stamp) customers. The program matches customers’ Calfresh benefits spent at participating markets (EBT), dollar-for-dollar, up to a $10 or $20 maximum, depending on the market. For each $1 that the USDA awarded, we secured $1 in funds or in-kind contributions.Thus, we truly could not do this work without the on-going contributions of local businesses, agencies, and contributors!
How can our community help?
- Spread the word about Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. to your community and service providers. CalFresh users need to know about this new initiative!
- Make a tax-deductible donation via Paypal or send a check with FM LIFE in the memo line to: Petaluma Bounty, 1500 Petaluma Blvd. South A, Petaluma, CA 94952.
- Attend a fundraising event (check our blog for the latest fun-draisers!).
- Leverage your contribution during our next grant application process. Your committed contribution will allow us to solicit a dollar for dollar match from USDA.
Farmers’ Markets have offered incentives for CalFresh users for several years, yet the problem was that incentive initiatives started and stopped as markets received intermittent and small awards of funding. In the fall of 2012, Petaluma Health Care District partnered with the Petaluma East Side Farmers’ Market to provide a $10 match incentive for CalFresh users. In early 2013, Petaluma Farmers’ Market Managers met with Program Director, Suzi Grady to brainstorm collaborative opportunities for funding a shared incentive program in Southern Sonoma County. Our goal in working together was to stabilize funding sources and expand the offering to multiple markets in our community.
In August 2014, Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. started as pilot with initial funding from Sonoma County Health Dept. and Human Services Dept. Petaluma Bounty partnered with Petaluma Eastside and Westside Farmers’ Markets, along with Foodies Project, Petaluma Healthcare District, Kaiser Permanente and other funders to provide up to $10 incentives for CalFresh users at all Petaluma Farmers’ Markets.
In fall of 2014, Petaluma Bounty reached out to all certified farmers’ markets of Sonoma County to participate in a federal grant application under the state-wide Market Match Consortium, coordinated by the Berkeley Ecology Center. Not all markets were ready, interested or had the capacity to collaboratively submit an application in late November of 2014.
In 2015, Petaluma Bounty launched the collaboration as part of the statewide California Market Match Consortium led by the Berkeley Ecology Center. Other supporters include Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Health, Petaluma Healthcare District, Slow Food Russian River, Sunrise Rotary Club Santa Rosa, and other donors that prefer to remain anonymous. We were able to expand this initiative to the current markets because Petaluma Bounty was part of a statewide award from the USDA FINI grant awarded to the Ecology Center for $3.7million.
Due to another USDA FINI grant being awarded to the Ecology Center in 2017, this time for $3.9million, Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E.is now funded through the end of 2019.
In the 2017 season, $60,557 of CalFresh benefits and $47,392 were distributed at local Farmers’ Market; these numbers represent a 6.33% and 7.08% increase respectively from the 2016 season. Further, in the 2017 season, Farmers’ Market LIFE completed a total of 3,635 transactions, served 328 new customers, hosted 20 Farmers’ Market Tours in partnership with the Center for Well-Being, and launched its first CalFresh Awareness Month Activities in the month of May.
Going into the 2018 season, a goal has been set to distribute $68,000 in CalFresh benefits and $52,000 of Market Match for participating Farmers’ Markets as well as hosting other events such as celebrating the month of May as CalFresh Awareness Month by hosting eight CalFresh Health and Wellness Events and hosting at least 12 more Farmers’ Market Tours in collaboration with the Center for Well-Being and other healthcare partners.
National Farmers’ Market Week
Program goals into the future
This initiative improves access to locally grown produce at farmers’ markets by providing an incentive to CalFresh users. It increases CalFresh users’ purchasing power, the economic viability of local farms, and keeps money in our local economy.
Indicators for impact include EBT Sales, change in number of CalFresh customers, new CalFresh customers, farmer interviews, number and type of outreach efforts, number and type of food education events held and educational materials distributed through market.
The FINI grant funding was awarded to Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. through the California Market Match Consortium through the end of 2016. Through the fall of 2016, we will work on submitting a new proposal to the USDA and hope to include more farmers’ markets from Sonoma County. If you run a market and would like to participate in Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E., please contact us!