One state just made farmers markets more affordable. It's good for everyone, even farmers.

With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown funded a $5 million program that supports local farmers and families in need.

It's the kind of good news we don't hear enough about.

In this new program, the California Nutrition Incentives Act will offer discounts on fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets for low-income shoppers receiving federal benefits.



A customer shops for fresh vegetables at a farmers market in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

A similar California-based program called Market Match, which has already rolled out, matches government benefits dollar for dollar to use on fresh produce and may serve as a model for the new California program.

Basically, if a shopper wants to use $5 of their federal benefits, this new program provides $10 in tokens for the shopper to use at local farmers markets.

That's double the amount of money that can used to buy fresh produce and double the amount of fresh produce sold, too. It's a great deal for families and farmers alike.

While the bill was approved by the state legislature last October, it was unclear where the money for the program would come from.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that $100 million in Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grants would be used to fund projects aimed at getting nutrient-rich, affordable foods to people in need.

Shoppers look at produce at the farmers market in Monterey Park, California. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Quickly, states and nonprofits developed coordinated efforts to apply for the funds. Washington and Massachusetts have already received $6 million and $4 million respectively for their programs. And Market Match received $3.7 million over two years to expand their program, too.

Naturally, California (which has around 700 farmers markets and more than 3.6 million residents in the CalFresh benefits program) wanted in.

And by funding this new $5 million project, California will receive a $5 million match from the USDA, doubling the program's potential impact.

A woman shops for peaches at the Monterey Park Farmers Market. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Projects like this are a win for everyone.

Local growers and farmers get to connect with and serve more customers.

(Yay, community!)

Uriel Espinoza, left, helps a customer pick out strawberries at a farmers market in San Francisco. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Low-income families using federal benefits can stretch that money a little farther and spend it on local food at an affordable price.

(Yay, delicious meals and strong families!)

A woman shops for peaches at Monterey Park's Farmers Market in Monterey Park, California. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

And every level of government gets the chance to work together for the people and take an active role providing better options for people with limited access to fresh options.

(Yay, good government!)

An organic farmer puts up a sign at the new farmers market in Hollywood. Photo by Sebastian Artz/Getty Images.

For everyone involved, this is the start of something good. Let's keep the good going.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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