CHC Joins Statewide Effort in Support of California Nutrition Incentives ActPosted by Robert Baird, Food Systems & Land Use Policy Analyst on March 17th, 2015
Legislators introduced a bill in the State Assembly on February 27 that promises to bring low-income families closer to small- and mid-size farmers. Community Health Councils has joined Roots of Change and 127 other agriculture and anti-poverty organizations in support of its passage. The California Nutrition Incentives Act (AB-1321) builds on the success of Market Match, a consumer incentive program funded through public and private contributions that has driven large sales increases at farmers markets by doubling the purchasing power of EBT benefits for fruits and vegetables. Market Match currently connects about 65,000 EBT customers with nearly 1,000 produce growers, and at its current scale contributes $3.6 million to rural economies.
The new bill proposes an annual state appropriation of $5 million to establish a similar EBT matching program within the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA), and to expand consumer incentives to other retail sectors, including convenience stores. Implementing the broadened nutrition incentives on a statewide basis would make California eligible for millions in key federal nutrition funding made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. New guidelines for federal nutrition funding specifically calls for increasing the purchase of fruits and vegetables by food assistance recipients at the point of sale.
When benefits like CalFresh (EBT), WIC and SSI/SSP are enhanced to purchase healthy food, it not only improves the food security of low-income households, it also supports small businesses and local farmers, and reduces healthcare costs by reinforcing healthier diets. A permanent source of funding for nutrition incentives used by EBT customers will also help economically sustain and improve the quality of farmer’s markets in communities with underdeveloped nutrition environments, which are crucial healthy food access points for low-income households.
A similar bill last year (AB-2385) was not brought to a vote before the Assembly which prevented the CDFA from accessing the initial round of federal nutrition incentive funding. However, a growing advocacy push and clarified regulatory language from the USDA have improved the prospects for the passage of this bill in 2015. For more information on the California Nutrition Incentives Act visit Roots of Change or track the bill’s progress in the state legislature.
Posted in 2015