Healthy Food Incentives at SF’s Alemany Farmers’ Market

Place matters. The Alemany farmers’ market is uniquely positioned to meet a significant unmet nutritional need of the surrounding neighborhoods. Further, incentive programs are proven to reduce hunger, improve health outcomes for the low-income community, and directly support the local agriculture.

What are healthy food incentives?

Healthy incentive programs provide innovative financial and non-financial stimulus that increases the purchase and consumption of eligible fruits and vegetables among low-income communities. Several different models exist—dollar for dollar matching, vouchers, coupons, and prescription programs. Program funding is from different sources ranging from private to public and both state and federal funds.

Alemany – The People’s Market

Many San Franciscans affectionately know the Alemany Certified Farmers’ Market as “the people’s market.” This down-home moniker speaks to Alemany’s affordable prices and bustling community atmosphere, but most of all to its long history in the city and the consistent public support it has enjoyed.

The Alemany Farmers’ Market is the first farmers’ market in California and was founded in San Francisco on August 12, 1943. Over the years, the Alemany Farmers’ Market has continuously supported small family farmers of California. Alemany is lucky to have farming families who have been selling at the market for two or even three generations.

Alemany was one of the first farmers’ market to accept the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. In California the program is called CalFresh. Alemany’s first incentive program, now called Market Match, was piloted in 2009. It was launched in partnership with A Better Course, the San Francisco Real Estate Department (who manages the market), the San Francisco Human Service Agency, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and private donors, St. Clemons Church. Although the funding sources and names have changed, the program has operated continuously since 2009 (with a brief pause in 2015). In 2014, the Farm Bill funded a federal program, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which provides competitive grants to public and non-profit organizations. A Better Course is now part of the California Market Match Consortium, which is managed by the Ecology Center, with 290 markets offering Market Match programs statewide.

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Incentive Programs are Working

In low-income communities we see:

  • Program participants consumed almost 26% more targeted fruits and vegetables per day than did non-participants.
  • Improved health outcomes, specifically for diet related chronic disease.
  • Increased purchasing power.

Financial benefits for the local community.

  • For every $100 of incentives spent at a Farmers’ Market, $62 stays in the local economy and $99 stays in the state.
  • Alemany had a 62% increase in the amount of Calfresh funds spent at the market when Market Match is offered.
  • Subsidizing the cost of fruit and vegetable purchases can reduce the rates of certain chronic diseases and be cost saving from a societal perspective.

Financial benefits for our local farmers.

  • Selling at farmers markets allows farmers to capture nearly 100% of the value of their sales as opposed to wholesale, where according to the National Farmers Union, farmers and ranchers receive about 17¢ of every dollar spent by consumers.

However, Much More Can Be Done

Shopping at the Market Year Round

The goal is to make purchasing fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market a normalized, year round behavior for CalFresh households. Our strategy to achieve this is to expand the program to operate year round. During 2018, Alemany’s Market Match operated for seventeen weeks (from December through April).

Reaching Additional High Need Populations

Our goal is to reach beyond CalFresh households and register Alemany with other healthy incentive programs distributed in San Francisco. Such as the EatSF program, which offers vouchers to San Francisco residents who have a diet related chronic health disease or are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Security Income Pending (SSIP), or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). EatSF fills a crucial gap by serving low-income residents who are not eligible for CalFresh but are in need of nutritional support. Further, WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Coupons are currently being accepted at the market however not significantly utilized by the community.

How You Can Support

Please contact us to find out how you can support the program.


Additional Resources

I got it at the farmers’ market video

Market Match Impact Report – February 2018

California’s Market Match Website 

The Power of Produce Report – April 2018