Fresh Fruit and Veggie Program Continues Growth
With warmer weather and a new season of fresh fruits and vegetables, more and more people are heading for their local farmer’s market on the weekend. And thanks to First 5 LA, there are more farmers markets than ever in Los Angeles County participating in the Market Match program, which doubles low-income shoppers’ CalFresh and WIC nutrition benefits and allows them to purchase more healthy fruits and vegetables for their families.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this program. I don’t think it would have gotten where it is without the help of First 5 LA,” said Frank Tamborello, executive director of Hunger Action LA, one of the Market Match partners in the county. The program was founded by the Ecology Center.
Last May, a $2.5 million grant from First 5 LA launched a five-year expansion of the Market Match program with the goal of 37 participating Los Angeles’ area farmers markets by 2018. Since that infusion of funds, five more local markets are now participating in the Market Match program, bringing the total to 17.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this program. I don’t think it would have gotten where it is without the help of First 5 LA.” - Frank Tamborello
The five newly participating farmers markets in L.A. County include Compton, La Cienega, Kaiser South Bay, Pomona Valley and Wellington Square. Click here for an interactive map to all of the participating markets in California, including days and times of operation.
“We’ve had lines of 200 people. It was unbelievable. It was definitely a success for First 5 LA,” Tamborello recalled of last summer’s Market Match expansion to the Pomona Valley farmers market. “There was a 50 percent redemption rate increase."
Thanks to First 5 LA’s investment, Tamborello said, up to $15,000 in Market Match vouchers are given out each month.
Here’s how it works: To receive a First 5 LA Market Match voucher, if an eligible customer with a child under age 5 spends $10 of their allotted benefit, they are given an extra $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables. The Market Match program helps parents maintain a healthy weight for their children by providing improved access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which are often hard to find in low-income neighborhoods.
“We don’t want the food that keeps us healthy to be out of reach financially to the families that need it most,” Tamborello said. “Through Market Match, families are not only able to have access to nutritious food, but to gain an appreciation for where that food comes from and sustainable farming practices.”
"The Market Match program has helped to draw thousands of WIC clients to local farmers markets around L.A. County," said Shannon E. Whaley, Director of Research and Evaluation for the PHFE WIC program in Irwindale. "Market Match significantly enhanced the value of the fruit and veggie vouchers offered by WIC, increasing the purchasing power of low-income families with young children."
March and April are busy times for participating farmers markets, Tamborello said, as regional growers bring in trucks full of leafy greens, root vegetables, kale, broccoli, strawberries and blueberries. And as the seasonal offerings grow during the year, so do efforts of expanding the program.
“Market Match continues to broaden its geographical reach throughout L.A. County by adding farmers markets,” said First 5 LA Program Officer Jessica Monge. “There have been concentrated efforts to focus its expansion in Best Start communities within the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys.”
Tamborello agreed: “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and asked, ‘How come you aren’t in the valley yet?’”
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