The federal government awarded one of its first Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grants to the Ecology Center on Wednesday, which will allow the Berkeley group to greatly expand its program to get fresh fruits and vegetables to people who use food stamps.
The Ecology Center got a $3.7 million, two-year grant, one of more than $31.5 million in grants handed out nationally to assist people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Mandela Marketplace in Oakland was the other local recipient. It received $422,500.
“Our goal is to increase the health of Californians by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and to provide additional, sustainable economic development for these pioneering farmers who are at our farmers markets,” said Martin Bourque, executive director of the 45-year-old Ecology Center.
The Ecology Center will use the funds to expand its MarketMatch program, which allows SNAP recipients to use their coupons at participating farmers markets. For every $10 a SNAP recipient spends at a market, he or she gets an additional matching $10, said Bourque.
“It provides them an incentive for making healthy food purchases,” he said. “It helps overcome the price barrier for the shopper and it also drives those federal food dollars right to California farmers.”