Pandemic Spurs Efforts to Promote “Food Justice” in California

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The Market Match program gives people who qualify for food assistance an extra $10 to spend at farmer's markets. Photo Credit:  SEE-LA

LOS ANGELES — The fight against “food apartheid” in California got a boost this week as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to create a Food Justice Roundtable to explore ways to reduce hunger and make healthy food more accessible.

One program doing just that is called Market Match, which gives people who qualify for food-assistance programs such as Cal Fresh, Pandemic EBT or WIC an extra $10 to spend at farmers markets.

Valeria Velazquez-Duenas, senior manager of farmers’ market programs for Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), which runs multiple farmers markets, said poverty worsened by the pandemic has driven a lot more customers to use Market Match.

“There have been lines of people wrapped around the block at some markets to get the incentive,” Velazquez-Duenas observed. “Whereas before it used to be just a pretty steady flow of traffic.”

Some markets have privately funded programs that extend the match up to $20 per month.

The “food justice” movement aims to make fresh produce more affordable and thus more accessible to everyone.

According to the L.A. Food Policy Council, low-income communities of color have two to three times fewer options for healthy food, compared with more affluent areas.

Samyrha Saba, Market Match program assistant for SEE-LA, said the program also drives business to small-scale local farmers, improves people’s health and stimulates economic activity in low-income neighborhoods.

“Food should be at the center of our culture and our economy,” Saba asserted. “And we should really value it and make sure that everyone has that fundamental human right to healthy, fresh produce that’s accessible and local to them.”

To find the closest farmers market that offers the Market Match program, go to

According to the California Association of Food Banks, about ten million people in California, or one in four residents, struggle to put food on the table.