KCRW Blogs

With ‘Market Match,’ food stamps get doubled at farmers markets

The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market now gives away free money to food stamp shoppers.

The idea is to incentivize people to choose healthier food options.

Here’s how it works. Each customer who uses an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card at the market gets a free $10 token for the first $10 they spend.

Through a grant from the Ecology Center, the SBCFM will match customers’ federal nutrition assistance benefits at six weekly markets in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Montecito and Solvang.

The SBCFM will now match the first $10 EBT shoppers spend at the market. The “Market Match” coins can only be spent on fruits and veggies. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

“You can use it once a day, so you can actually visit our six weekly markets and get a free $60 in extra bucks to spend on the markets,” said market manager Sam Edelman. “Even if you live in the immediate downtown Santa Barbara area and just visit the Saturday and Tuesday downtown markets, getting that extra $20 a week could really go a long way.”

Currently, about 20 to 30 EBT shoppers take advantage of the new program at each of the downtown Santa Barbara markets. Edelman said he now plans to work with the local public school systems, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Eastside and Westside Neighborhood Clinics and Cottage Hospital to help spread the word to more people.

“We got a substantial grant, so we have a lot of room for growth,” he said. “We’re going to do a lot of outreach in the next few months to make the community aware of this program.”

Market manager Sam Edelman. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

About 50 community-based organizations and farmers’ market operators offer the Market Match program at more than 290 sites across the state (including Ventura). You can find one near you here.

Want more farmers market news? Click here.