Michael R. Dimock’s Testimony in Support of Nutrition Incentive Funding Before the California Assembly Budget Committee March 30, 2016
Chairman Bloom and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to speak in support of five million dollars for the new statewide Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program created last year with the passage of Assemblymember Ting’s AB 1321, which was sponsored by Roots of Change. This program is built on the evidence-based success of the six-year-old Market Match program operating in nearly 240 farmers markets across the state where CalFresh benefits are doubled when spent on California’s healthy fruits and vegetables. Nutrition incentives are good for families receiving CalFresh, California’s farmers, the state healthcare budget and our economy.
In 2015, 4.4 million Californians received CalFresh benefits, adding $7.5 billion in spending to the California economy. Approximately 42% or 1.8 million of those vulnerable Californians were food insecure, meaning they didn’t have a consistent ability to buy food. These same individuals suffer disproportionate rates of diabetes.
Diabetes treatment is already costing the state over $37 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity. It is also known that 9% of adults are diagnosed with diabetes, 46% are prediabetic and over 33% of young adults (18 to 39) are already prediabetic, meaning the diabetes burden on the state’s economy will continue to rise dramatically.
We know that Californians are concerned about diabetes. Ongoing evaluation of Market Match shows that demand for nutrition incentives far outweighs supply. Only about 30% of the states farmers markets and virtually none of our retail stores offer incentives, but they have very real benefits. They spawn healthier food shopping habits, increase CalFresh enrollment and create jobs in farming communities. Two days ago, the USDA published a blog clarifying that nutrition incentives are “an important part” of a comprehensive approach to achieving “significant decreases in childhood obesity rates….”
The USDA has also shown that every dollar in SNAP expenditures generates $1.79 in economic activity. Even more importantly, a recent study by the UC Small Farm program has shown that for every dollar of local produce sold through a farmers market, farm stand or CSA box, $1.83 in additional economic activity are generated. Nutrition incentives have increased CalFresh expenditures on fruits and vegetables in farmers markets by 130 to 700%.
Given this success in combating hunger and diabetes, and so much demand, California must maximize its share of federal dollars available through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) fund established in the 2014 Farm Bill. This USDA competitive grant program requires a match from each applicant. California has 10% of the nation’s farmers markets and 11% of SNAP recipients, but we have so far failed to get our fair share of the federal nutrition incentive funds because California’s match has been limited to philanthropic support. This is why our budget proposal asks for a modest one-time investment of five million dollars. This will allow California to apply for at least that amount from the USDA. But we have competition. Legislatures in Illinois, Missouri, and Massachusetts are creating state matching funds right now. New Mexico, with bipartisan leadership, has been providing nutrition incentive funds for two years already. We need General Fund support in California to maximize our draw down from the federal program.
We urge the Legislature to take advantage of AB 1321, which established a mechanism within the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Farm to Fork Office to leverage state funds to maximize the federal match for California’s Nutrition Incentive Matching grant program. Based on the data gathered by Market Match, we know that with five million dollars from California and five million from USDA, we can boost sales of California produce by forty to sixty million dollars, increasing healthy food access and support for our rural communities struggling through the drought. In closing, nutrition incentives have proven that they are an economic engine and a health improvement and maintenance program that will prevent future suffering and budget-busting expense. Thank you.
 Briefing to the CA Food Policy Council by Dr. Shermain Hardesty, UC Small Farm Program Director, “Impact of Local Food Marketing on the Local Economy.” March 15, 2016, at the CA Department of Food and Agriculture.
Note: Roots of Change is working with the American Heart Association, California Food Policy Advocates, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Ecology Center, Hunger Action Los Angeles, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Public Health Institute and the 29 regions of the state and over 120 organizations linked to the CA Food Policy Council to move the budget request through both houses of the California Legislature.