Research brief shares findings from an evaluation of the California Nutrition Incentive Program at Farmers’ Market

The California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP) provides CalFresh shoppers a dollar-for-dollar match when purchasing California-grown fruits and vegetables at participating Certified Farmers Markets and small food stores. Over 4.6 million Californians with low-income receive money to spend on food through CalFresh, also known as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers conducted an evaluation of the CNIP program operating at California farmers' markets in 2018. Interviews were conducted with 386 CalFresh shoppers from ten farmers' markets offering maximum incentives ranging from $0 to $20, and from nine nearby supermarkets not offering incentives. Researchers found that CalFresh CNIP shoppers who reported using more of the match incentive reported lower levels of food insecurity. Additionally, farmers' market shoppers consumed more fruits and vegetables than supermarket shoppers, though no differences in consumption were found between CNIP and non-CNIP shoppers. Program participants expressed consistent and overwhelmingly positive appreciation for the CNIP program.  “I'm eating better because I can afford to get fresh food, fresh vegetables and fruit that I wouldn't get otherwise,” said one CalFresh shopper about the CNIP program, “It gives me a chance to taste and to eat foods that I might not otherwise be exposed to, and foods that I wouldn't feel like I could afford." Despite the overwhelming support for the CNIP program from those using it, researchers found that fewer than one-in-five supermarket shoppers were aware of the CNIP program; after learning about CNIP, nearly all said they would be likely to use it. Findings from the evaluation are available in an online research brief. The research was led by NPI researchers Wendi Gosliner, Ron Strochlic, and Sridharshi Hewawitharana and included UC Berkeley graduate student researchers Celeste Felix and Caroline Long. The evaluation was funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement