Service Providers Tour Farmers’ Market for CalFresh Awareness Month

Helping CalFresh customers get more nutritional foods while enhancing the local food economy is an important goal of Petaluma Bounty and our Farmers’ Market L.I.F.E. partners. We run the Market Match program so CalFresh customers can get extra spending bucks for fruits and vegetables at participating Sonoma and Marin County farmers’ markets.

Organizations that assist CalFresh customers play an important role in awareness, information sharing, enrollment, support, and follow-up. With that in mind, during CalFresh Awareness Month of May, we invited service provider organizations to tour a farmers’ market and get a first-hand feel of how a CalFresh customer might experience the markets.

Representatives from Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, Redwood Community Health Coalition, and the County of Sonoma Human Services Department joined the tour at Petaluma East Side Farmers’ Market, which runs every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Lucchesi Park.

During the tour, Market Manager Jim Fenton spoke about serving CalFresh customers and offering Market Match. Fenton, who’s been a market manager for 30 years, said the stigma of “food stamps” have diminished. “It’s not like 30 years ago,” he said. For farmer vendors, a dollar is a dollar, and no one bats an eye, he said. “It’s federal dollars that go directly to local farmers who spend the money locally.”

How CalFresh customers can use Market Match

CalFresh customers can look for the manager’s tent to get EBT dollars to work. If you’re having trouble finding the tent, you can always ask a farm vendor, Fenton said.

At the tent, CalFresh customers can present their EBT card to be swiped in exchange for market money to the amount of their choice. (Vendors can then accept the market money without having to run EBT machines.) CalFresh customers will then receive Market Match vouchers between $10 and $20 per day, depending on the market. EBT money can be used for any food that’s not prepared hot foods, and Market Match can be used for fruits and vegetables.

Petaluma Bounty Director Suzi Grady explained that customers on a budget can maximize their purchases by asking for what’s in season or if farmer vendors could offer discounts for bulk or bunched purchases.

After orientation, tour participants were given $5 each in market money to experience the market themselves. Participants taste-tested and purchased sweet ripe strawberries, plus cherries, zucchinis, and more. One of the participants, from Sonoma County’s Human Services Department, even created and posted a fun and informative Reel on Instagram.

Nearly 2 million more people are eligible for CalFresh

CalFresh Awareness Month started in May of 2011 and is the official month dedicated to increasing public awareness of CalFresh. About 4.5 million Californians in 2.5 million households currently receive CalFresh Food benefits, however, it’s estimated that nearly 2 million more Californians are eligible for assistance and do not receive them. Help us spread the word that everyone who qualifies is entitled to CalFresh and that CalFresh customers are welcomed with open arms at participating farmers’ markets.

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