By the Western Regional Office
Food and Nutrition Service
The first week of August, farmers markets across the nation celebrate National Farmers Market Week, highlighting their role in supporting healthy communities, food systems and stimulating local economies.
Throughout the pandemic, farmers markets and USDA partners worked hard to remain safe, accessible outlets for healthy food, as well as a vital marketing outlet for small and mid-sized farmers. Farmers markets put rigorous safety plans in place and the Ecology Center fought to ensure that farmers markets were classified as essential businesses while sharing best practices around pandemic response with the broader farmers market community.
More than 4,700 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers currently participate in SNAP, and in California, nearly 250 markets provided Market Match incentives to customers shopping with SNAP/EBT, Pandemic EBT, or Disaster EBT. Market Match is a farm-direct based nutrition incentive program led by the Ecology Center and funded through the USDA Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program and California Nutrition Incentive Program.
“Thanks to local farmers, we have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods here in California,” said Jesus Mendoza, Jr., USDA Food Nutrition Service Western Region Office Administrator. “Accepting SNAP at farmers markets expands the customer base for farmers and markets, increases access to healthy foods, and encourages sales of locally-sourced produce.”
The Visalia Farmers’ Market (a former USDA grantee) began offering packed produce boxes for preorder online in response to the pandemic. Market Match offered SNAP customers a 50% discount or $10 off the produce.
“Being able to save some money when using our P-EBT card on produce is a huge plus,” one Visalia Farmer’s Market customer said. “The funds will last us longer by shopping at the farmers market.”