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As budget deadline looms, California groups defend Market Match program

Suzanne Potter

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(California News Service) California anti-hunger groups are asking Governor Gavin Newsom to preserve funding for Market Match, a program helping low-income families buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

Lawmakers are expected to include $35 million for the program when they pass a budget this weekend.

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Minni Forman, food and farming program director at the nonprofit Ecology Center, hopes the governor will decide to leave it be.

"He could, in the final hour, strip it out," Forman acknowledged. "All of our hard work and all the hard work of all of the elected officials and advocates would be lost."

Lawmakers face a multibillion-dollar deficit and are required by law to pass a balanced budget. The governor's budget proposals in January and May essentially zeroed out Market Match but lawmakers' version restored the California Nutrition Incentive Program, which funds Market Match.

Frank Tamborello, executive director of Hunger Action Los Angeles, said Market Match helps families cope with rising food prices and it is just the beginning.

"It's fighting hunger. It's promoting healthy foods. It's helping the California small farm economy," Tamborello outlined. "In the long run, it's also helping with sustainable agriculture and climate change by reducing the number of miles that the food travels to get to you. "

Market Match has been around for 15 years and is now offered at almost 300 sites around the state. The program gives people on Cal Fresh about $15 per market per day to spend on fruits and vegetables.