One of the hurdles in helping low-income families gain access to affordable, healthy food has been cleared.
On Friday, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved legislation that would require farmers markets across the city to accept CalFresh EBT cards, the modern equivalent of food stamps. Previously it has been estimated by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council that almost half of L.A. farmers markets didn’t accept EBT, although many farmers and vendors supported the program as a boon to business.
It's estimated that more than a million people in the L.A. area rely on CalFresh to buy groceries each month, according to L.A. County data, and while the EBT program is accepted at fast-food outlets such as KFC, Taco Bell and 7-Eleven, using it to buy local, fresh fruits and vegetables has been a somewhat byzantine process.
“In order to create a fair farmers market system that ensures all Angelenos, regardless of income level, have access to healthy foods, we need a policy that requires those farmers markets to accept EBT,” said City Councilmember Jose Huizar in a press release. Huizar proposed the motion to the council after being approached by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and Los Angeles Community Action Network.
Under the new process, market managers will operate a digital EBT card-reader booth that dispenses vouchers, which then can be used to purchase food from certified vendors. The vendors are reimbursed dollar-for-dollar, ensuring that the transaction is as beneficial for farmers as it is for the public.
Implementing the new policy involves certification through the USDA, which usually takes up to two months — once that step is complete, the ordinance is expected to go into effect within the next six months. For more information, check out the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s EBT at farmers markets FAQ page.