Market Match and $15 EBT buys a Barrelful of Fresh Produce

If you’re lucky enough to have at least $15 in your EBT account, take a look at the huge haul that could be yours from Pasadena's Villa Parke Farmers' Market.

4 mins read
Multiple types of fresh garden groceries and a bottle of olive oil

Hopefully there’s enough room in your fridge for all the foodstuffs just $15 in EBT bucks buys at Pasadena’s Villa Parke Farmers’ Market. Our sample haul of locally sourced goodness includes:

  • A vibrant bunch of organic purple kale
  • A massive head of heirloom orange-colored cauliflower
  • An overflowing basket of ripe, flavorful strawberries
  • A rubber-banded bundle of garden-fresh leeks
  • Three medium-sized florets of broccoli
  • Two freshly-picked heads of red leaf lettuce, and
  • A 16.9 oz bottle of organic olive oil bought from the grower who pressed it.
A pile of fresh fruits and vegetables on display
Photo: Sheryl Turner

What would a sumptuous sampling like that set you back at a Big Agra-supplied supermarket? Thirty-five bucks, easy. The organic olive oil alone would run you close to $15! Does purchasing all those cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens for less than half what you’d pay a corporate market sound too good to be true? Well, it would be, that is, if munificent forces hadn’t come up with the bright idea of Market Match to help insulate lower-income Pasadenans from food insecurity. Let’s zoom in on all the details.

What does EBT stand for? Electronic Balance Transfer, as it’s technically known, or Eating Better Together, as it’s fondly referred to by program participants. It’s also known as food stamps, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and CalFresh.

Are you eligible for CalFresh / EBT / Food Stamps / SNAP?

No matter how you remember it, CalFresh is California’s food stamps program funded by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

CalFresh is for people with low income who meet federal income eligibility requirements and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table.

The CalFresh Web site is easy to navigate, and there is a comprehensive frequently asked section for all your queries, including eligibility, local resources, food banks and documents required.

Once qualified, the State of California will issue you an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that you can widely use throughout the food industry, including at our local Pasadena farmers’ markets.

Instituted in 1977, there is an historic and informative video chronicling the success of the food stamps program on the Web site with additional information about the importance of nutrition security and why food is so vital to keeping children and families healthy and strong.

Yellow coupons displayed on a tabletop
Yellow Market Match coupons and equally valuable EBT dollars. Photo: Lory Kohn

What is Market Match? Participating farmers’ markets will match the first $10-15 of EBT funds you spend. If a market is on board, $15 worth of foodstuffs becomes instantly alchemized into $30 worth.

How does it work? Present yourself at the information booth, hand your EBT card to the staffer, indicate how much of your remaining balance you’d like to use, input your four-digit security code into a handheld terminal, then walk away with $15 in EBT dollars and $15 in matching funds to spend on some of the world’s best organic produce sold by the actual tillers of the earth. Those same EBT dollars are also accepted at the larger Pasadena Victory Farmers’ Market — though not the matching funds.

Who provides funding for Market Match?  Hunger Action Los Angeles provides the Market Match funding, while the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Unified School District provide promotional support for both the Villa Parke and the Victory Park Farmers’ Market. Like-minded social service agencies provide matching funds and promotional support for other areas farmers’ markets.

How do I know if a farmers’ market near me market matches? The Ecology Center tracks participating markets and the amounts they match.

Why you’ve never heard of Market Match: One might suppose that BenefitsCal, gatekeeper for CalFresh and Medicaid, has the vision and foresight to send everyone accepted into their system notification pointing out the existence of additional benefits like Market Match — which can really stretch out lower income residents’ purchasing power — but no such insider’s guide exists. 

Is Market Match guaranteed for perpetuity? Hardly. Funding sources have been known to dry up with little or no advance notice, so our advice is to take advantage of them while you can.

A bunch of vegetables on display
Photo: Sheryl Turner

Why it matters

  • Throughout 2022, 37% of low-income residents of Los Angeles County lacked access to sufficient food for an active, healthy life. That’s 10 points more than in 2018, before the pandemic struck, according to research published by USC Dornsife’s Public Exchange. 

  • Nearly one-quarter of all Angelenos — about 800,000 households — experienced food insecurity in 2022. Rates for Latino and Black residents were three times higher than for white residents. 

  • A related study of four eastside L.A. neighborhoods designated “food deserts” revealed that the biggest issue for residents isn’t access to food but rather price, quality and variety.

  • That extra $95 Calfresh recipients have been accustomed to getting since the onset of the pandemic went away in April, so making every dollar count is vital.

Bottom Line

There simply is no better way to stretch a fresh and healthy food budget than by taking advantage of Market Match at a local farmers’ market.

And furthermore…

Not only is the $15 in matching funds at Villa Parke the best “deflation” deal around but there’s also the experiential factor that’s equally enticing for shoppers in middle and higher income brackets: it’s heartening to come across a wistful scene recalling the less contentious days of Norman Rockwell’s America like the one that greets you every Tuesday morning at the corner of Garfield and E. Villa Street.

A person in a blue shirt holding a plastic card
Gretchen Sterling performs double duty as manager of the Villa Parke Farmers’ Market and EBT paymaster. Photo: Lory Kohn

We’re the oldest farmers’ market still operating in LA County,” manager Gretchen Sterling proudly proclaimed as she ran another happy customer’s EBT card through a portable electronic terminal. “It’s the lifestyle I love. I love helping my community, I love helping customers, and I love helping growers.” It’s a long-running love affair: 43 years and counting.

On the surface, holding a farmers’ market on a Tuesday morning seems like a great recipe for limiting the number of potential customers and lowering the amount of sales. However, when you dig a little deeper, you find out why Villa Parke is still thriving:

I don’t know about you, but a week’s worth of fresh produce tends to get lost in the back of my refrigerator,” Gretchen explained. “I like to shop more than once a week, and so do a lot of people who want their ingredients as fresh as possible.”

Gretchen’s also keenly aware of the farmer’s perspective, as in there aren’t enough of them around to fill weekend markets. “These aren’t hobby farmers, stuff keeps growing all week, and they need places to sell it.”

Last but not least in a city where even luxury car owners feel the pinch of $65 parking tickets, weekdays are a lot easier to find a prime spot.

Citrus displayed on a table with clear boxes of various nuts
Photo: Sheryl Turner

Does your local farmers’ market offer Market Match? 

Pasadena Farmers’ Market at Victory Park, 2900 block of North Sierra Madre Blvd. (Saturday 8:30 am-12:30 pm) = No

Pasadena Farmers’ Market at Villa Parke Center, 363 East Villa Street (Tuesday 8:30 am-12:30 pm) = Yes, $15

Altadena Farmers’ Market, 600 W. Palm St. (Wednesday 4:00 pm-7:00 pm)= Yes, $15

South Pasadena Farmers’ Market, Mission St. at Meridian (Thursday 4:00 pm-8:00 pm) = No

Alhambra Certified Farmers’ Market, 100 South Second St. (Sunday 8:30 am-1:00 pm) = No

Old LA Farmers’ Market in Highland Park, North Figueroa St. and Ave. 58 (Tuesday 3:00 pm-8:00 pm) = Yes, $10

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Lory Kohn

Lory is a corespondent for Local News Pasadena. He's the only active member of the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association who's written a song for the cinematic classic Revenge of the Nerds, Pt II.

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