For more than five years, shoppers at the Alemany farmers' market have been able to present their CalFresh (food stamp) cards at the central office and exchange their benefits for blue $1 tokens to spend at the stands. Most of the markets in the city, including the Ferry Plaza
Farmers' Market, provide a similar service. At Alemany, however, few shoppers have used the tokens. So this weekend a coalition of city agencies and organizations launched an incentive program, Farmers' Market Bonus Bucks. CalFresh customers who spend $10 on fruits and vegetables at the market will get an extra $5 worth of tokens free.
The incentive program actually began last summer, spearheaded by the Campaign for Better Nutrition
a local nonprofit. In 2010, it rolled out the Bonus Bucks pilot program
at three markets: Alemany, Fillmore, and Divisadero. "We decided to
continue at Alemany because it had the highest participation [of the
three pilot sites] and lowest prices, so we really wanted to make sure
we were using everybody's funds appropriately," says Colleen Kavanaugh,
director of Campaign for Better Nutrition. "We didn't want them to have to spend their tight budgets on $4 peaches."
The organization has mailed flyers to all the food
stamp recipients in the zip codes surrounding the Saturday market, which
is just south of Bernal Heights, and is working with several local
clinics to help promote it. The city's Department of Public Health, Human Services Agency, and Real Estate Division have
chipped in to publicize the program, but most of the
incentive funds are coming from private donations.
Market shoppers can get the extra $5 each week they shop, and Kavanaugh says the program will continue until it runs out of funds. "If we increase that pot of money, it'll last longer." SFoodie believes that's a hint