Low-income residents will be able to enroll in the state's CalFresh program Sunday at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market thanks to a new project designed to encourage healthier food options for the poor.
The project has been launched by the Occupy L.A. Food Committee to enroll new members in CalFresh, which is better known as the food stamps program, and to encourage them to use their benefits at farmers markets. The group also is promoting the Market Match program of Hunger Action L.A., which provides up to a $5 match for CalFresh benefits used at selected farmers markets, said Lauren Steiner, who conceived of the project.
The Department of Public Social Services will have a nutrition and health mobile unit at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to enroll people in CalFresh, Steiner said.
Volunteers with Occupy L.A. staffed a table April 22 at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market to promote the use of CalFresh at farmers markets and raised $125 for the Market Match program.
Meg Taylor of Large Marge Sustainables and June Pagan, a private chef working with Venice High School students, will conduct a workshop on "How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck at the Farmers Market" at 11:30 a.m. with a healthy cooking demonstration at 12:30 p.m.
The group has been distributing fliers at the Mar Vista Gardens public housing project and to children enrolled in low-income programs at local schools.
Steiner said many of the poor live in so-called "food deserts" that don't have supermarkets with fresh produce aisles.
"Due to the lack of availability and the high cost of fresh produce, low income people eat a high calorie, low nutrient diet of highly processed foods. As a result, the obesity rate and diabetes rates are three times higher in South L.A. than in West L.A.," Steiner said in a release.
Only 27 of 123 farmers markets in Los Angeles County accept food stamps, Steiner said. The Market Match program is designed to stretch the average benefit of $115 a month at farmers markets.