BY EDGAR SANCHEZ
Every Saturday, from May through October, smart shoppers look for great deals at Oak Park Farmers Market.
They always find them.
But besides low prices on fresh fruits, vegetables and other edibles, they find a friendly vibe that draws them back to the open-air market at Sacramento’s McClatchy Park.
“Everyone at Oak Park Farmers Market is respectful” to one another, said Stefana Madrid, a loyal customer from South Sacramento. “I like going there.”
The single mother of three receives CalFresh benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps, which have extra purchasing power at Oak Park Farmers Market.
The market — now closed until May — is funded and operated by NeighborWorks Sacramento Home Ownership Center, with the support of The California Endowment.
The market is managed by Joany Titherington, a long-time Oak Park resident and leader who proudly brings California’s nutritious bounty to Oak Park.
“From the beginning, we wanted to make sure that families of all incomes and backgrounds would have access to healthy, locally grown food,” said Sharon Eghigian,Director of Community Impact/Resource Development for the nonprofit NeighborWorks.
From an original six vendors, the market now has about 30, mostly from farms in Yolo, Placer and Sacramento counties. They sell their goods — including organic produce — to an ever-expanding number of customers, including CalFresh recipients, who can double their benefits there.
To get this deal, CalFresh participants visit the market’s information booth, where electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards are swiped through a state-authorized payment terminal similar to a credit-card approval machine.
A CalFresh customer spending $20 in benefits receives $40 in wooden tokens, which can be used to purchase any EBT eligible products, including produce, bread, cheese, eggs and nuts.
“From the beginning, we wanted to make sure that families of all incomes and backgrounds would have access to healthy, locally Grown food.”Sharon Eghigian
Director of Community Impact/Resource Development, NeighborWorks Sacramento
The dollar-for-dollar match is sponsored by Rabobank and the Ann Land and Bertha Henschel Memorial Fund (City of Sacramento) Commission.
Over the nine years of the Oak Park Farmers Market, the EBT program has continued to grow as families receiving benefits learn about the Market and the EBT match. About 25 new EBT families visit the Market each month, Eghigian said, and they are very excited to be able to double their dollars to purchase healthy food for their families.
“The match really helps my family out,” said Madrid, a caregiver in a senior retirement facility.
By eliminating paper vouchers long associated with Food Stamps, EBT cards have brought more dignity to CalFresh transactions, Titherington noted, speaking from experience.
“My mom was a single parent of six, and there were times when we were on public aid,” she said. “I remember the (mean) looks, the comments that people made when we had to pull out the paper Food Stamps at supermarkets.”
With EBT, “Nobody knows what kind of card you’re using, unless they’re looking over your shoulder,” Madrid agreed.