Monthly Archives: August 2017

Summer Feeding is FUN

Summer in California is full of fresh produce. From the farmers’ market to the grocery store, local fruits and vegetables are everywhere. Despite this bounty, many Californians lack access to these foods and summer can represent a time of hunger for low income families. Similar federal feeding programs to those that support children during the school year still exist, but attendance is significantly lower when school is out. To drive participation and take advantage of this special growing season, Natomas Unified School District Nutrition Services hosts an annual Summer Meal Celebration, a free meal, open to the general public. The day marks a time to bring the community together to eat good food and enjoy one another’s company.

This year’s celebration, held at Natomas High School, attracted 1200 attendees and served over 970 nutritious meals. The day was also a California Thursdays event, with all items sourced from within the state and freshly prepared by Natomas staff who barbequed on site, mixed salads, and cut hundreds of watermelon slices. The menu featured BBQ Airline Chicken from Modesto, a stone fruit slaw from Salinas, baked beans from Lodi, milk from Sacramento, a whole grain dinner roll from Dublin, and a kale salad from Salinas.  Natomas staff worked tirelessly to make the celebration a success and made everyone who attended feel welcome and part of the fun. During the summer months USDA runs the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option which provide nutritious meals to low income children under the age of 18. A generous donation from Sodexo made meals at the event available to all attendees so the entire family could eat together. The event also featured numerous vendors for attendees to visit, adding to the festive feeling. There was even a farmer’s market with free local produce for families to take home.

The Office of Farm to Fork hosted a photo booth where attendees had their picture taken eating a fresh slice of watermelon. The melon was donated by Capay Organic/ Farm Fresh to You, which is active in advancing farm to school efforts in California. Individuals, families, and friends piled into the frame together to capture the moment. Photos were posted on the Office Flickr site for download later that day.

The event ended with staff and attendees line dancing and celebrating another successful Summer Meal Celebration. The activity aimed to show people how connecting with your friends, family, and community around healthy food is not only nutritious but also fun.

Check out the Office of Farm to Fork Flickr page to see more of the fun.


USDA Awards Office of Farm to Fork $3.9 Million in FINI Funding

Daikon radish

SACRAMENTO, August 7, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded CDFA a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant of $3,944,573 to fund nutrition incentives at Certified Farmers’ Markets throughout the state.

Along with partners at the Ecology Center, Wellington Square Farmers Market, Napa Farmers Market, and North Figueroa Foundation, the grant will help fund the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which is set to begin this summer. The program, administered by CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, will address food insecurity and access to fresh fruits and vegetables among low income Californians while simultaneously supporting and expanding markets for California farmers.

CNIP will offer nutrition incentives to CalFresh Shoppers at 339 certified farmers’ markets and mobile markets throughout California. For every CalFresh benefit dollar they spend, CalFresh shoppers will receive an additional dollar that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at the market, within set parameters. Any CalFresh shopper can benefit from the program simply by spending their benefits at participating Certified Farmers’ Markets. The incentive is intended to encourage CalFresh shoppers to purchase healthy food and empower them to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

CNIP builds on the successful eight-year old California Market Match program, led by Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which received a two-year FINI grant in 2015. CNIP emphasizes innovative marketing and outreach efforts to attract more CalFresh shoppers to farmers’ markets, expansion to new markets, and the testing of different technologies to make it easier for farmers’ markets to continue offering incentives.

“CDFA is thrilled to be selected for a federal FINI award” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The program is a triple win for California – it supports the health of our low-income shoppers, our farmers, and the local economy.”

The California Nutrition Incentive Program is made possible through a robust public-private funding structure—including the FINI grant, state general funds, SNAP-Ed (the federally funded nutrition education program for SNAP and SNAP eligible consumers) funds, and local partner support, including private donations, grants and in-kind contributions. CNIP was created by Assembly Bill 1321 (Ting) in 2015 and was provisionally funded when the Legislature appropriated $5 million for the program in 2016, contingent on receiving matching federal funds. This state funding enabled CDFA to apply for the FINI grant. The Department is exploring a second phase of the program next year and will apply for additional matching funds.

Partners were chosen through a competitive grant process, to implement the program and include programs at the Ecology Center – California Market Match Expansion and Innovation Project; Wellington Square Certified Farmers’ Market Incentive Festivals; North Figueroa Association – Market Match of Northeast Los Angeles; and the Downtown Napa Farmers’ Market Token Match Program.

More information on the California Nutrition Incentive Program can be found at