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$3.7M grant aims to get poor families to buy more produce

The market as become a go-to destination for rare ingredients from around the world.
In L.A. County, the program will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $10 per outing, what residents spend on produce at participating farmers markets.

A program that encourages low-income people to buy more fruit and vegetables at farmers markets will expand across Los Angeles and the state, thanks to a $3.7 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The grant, announced Wednesday, will support California Market Match, which provides a financial incentive to people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - formerly known as food stamps - to buy fresh produce at farmers markets. 

The program matches dollar-for-dollar the amount spent at participating farmers markets on fruit and vegetables - up to $10 per shopping outing in L.A. County.

The federal award builds on a $2.5 million grant given last year by First 5 L.A.

Market Match is currently offered at 20 markets in the county; with the USDA grant, it plans to add five more this year, according to the Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which leads the initiative.  Eventually it plans to have 37 in the program. 

Market Match has generated an estimated $5.5 million statewide in fruit and vegetable sales at farmers market since it began five years ago, according to the Ecology Center. It estimates there have been 133,000 Market Match transactions statewide over that time period.

Sia'Kendah Hobdy, of L.A., says the program has made a difference for her family. The program boosts her spending power at farmers markets, she notes, adding that it also allows her and her kids to enjoy a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.

"It means a great deal for me," says the mother of four.