On May 12th and on the occasion of CalFresh Awareness Month in the City of Los Angeles, Councilman Mitch O’ Farrell of Council District 13 recognized the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) for the work it does to combat food insecurity in East Hollywood through its East Hollywood Certified Farmers’ Market. Thai CDC Executive Director, Chanchanit Martorell, and the market staff, Billie Lay and Audrey Hollis were on hand in Council Chambers to hear words of praises from Councilman O’ Farrell and to receive a beautiful hand calligraphy commendation from the City.
The East Hollywood Certified Farmers’ Market (EHCFM) has been operating every Thursday from 3:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue Metro Station Plaza since April 2012. Its current location is also now in President Obama’s federally designated Los Angeles Promise Zone which is considered a signature anti-poverty and economic opportunity program of the President. Funding for the market has come from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Half a dozen California Certified Growers currently sell locally grown produce at the market. The market serves over 15,000 consumers per year. This includes over 2,000 CalFresh recipients and over 1,500 beneficiaries of Women Infant and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Security Income/State Disability Insurance (SSI/SDI). CalFresh is the new name for Food Stamps in California which are issued to individuals and families who are low income and need public assistance for food. It is a safety net that ensures that the poor do not go hungry and have access to fresh, healthy food.
The Thai Community Development Center created the farmers’ market to address the problems that it documented in the community which include:
• Inability to afford food in stores
• Severe housing burden, resulting in buying less food or low quality food among families and seniors
• Lack of knowledge about resources including food stamps and public benefit programs
• Persons on SSI cannot qualify to receive food stamps in California
• Lack of cooking facilities, storage and refrigeration among the homeless population
One of the creative food resources at our market is our Market Match program. Through our partnership with Hunger Action LA (HALA), we have been able to offer the Market Match program to CalFresh participants and WIC and SSI/SDI recipients. The program provides an additional $5-$10 to CalFresh and SSI/SDI participants if they spend at least $5 during a market day. Since November 2013, we have been able to offer the Market Match program to WIC participants who are matched up to $20. The EHCFM has served more than 2,000 CalFresh and SSI participants. The Electronic Benefit Transfer purchases by individuals on public assistance last year was over $9,000, and we have distributed over $5,000 under the Market Match program.
Thai CDC works on reducing barriers to accessing fresh produce through its Market Match program and through accepting EBT, WIC, SFMNP checks and WIC FMNP checks. Thai CDC works with the Metro to offer a market linked to a major transit hub and has scheduled market hours that are convenient for commuters who might be working during earlier farmers’ markets.
The EHCFM provides East Hollywood with produce sold directly by the farmers that grew them. Our public benefit program like the Market Match expands the purchasing power of the area’s low income residents. Farmers also benefit from one-on-one sessions with our award winning business counselors. Thai CDC also offers nutrition education programs, develops linkages between area nonprofits, local agriculture and market customers, and collaborates with area agencies to make the East Hollywood Certified Farmers’ Market a “one-stop” solution for affordable produce, nutrition education, health awareness and assistance, as well as a location for neighborhood and government outreach.
Thai CDC has also integrated the farmers’ market into the social and cultural life of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community of East Hollywood through the following:
1. Increased awareness of and access to local food programs and products that enables families to live healthier
2. Negotiated purchasing agreements with restaurants, schools and Thai Town Marketplace vendors to purchase from EHCFM farmers
3. Entrepreneurship and small business training for EHCFM farmers
4. Increased number of farmers at the market
5. Local musicians performing at the market
6. Having Asian Pacific HealthCare Venture conduct health education
7. Hosting cooking demonstrations
8. Providing a “smoothie bike” for people to make smoothies with the fresh produce
9. Creating and distributing recipes
10. Having the LA County Department of Public Social Services conduct Calfresh
11. Collaborating with the Los Angeles Dietetic Association to bring dieticians to the
12. Having Thai CDC’s certified Affordable Care Act Enrollment Counselor at the
market to do health insurance enrollments
13. Had photo booths and arts and crafts event for Halloween
14. Had a winter holiday wreath raffle and toy give-away
15. Had an aquaponics lecture/workshop for local residents who were interested in
creating their own sustainable aquaponics system
16. Had a Valentine’s Day arts and crafts celebration
17. Had the election and voter registration staff from the City of Los Angeles
register people to vote and do voter education
Our farmers’ market is a multi-system, interagency approach to food security. We work with other food security nonprofits, local government and health organizations to increase the long term capacity of the East Hollywood community so that our market can become an invaluable local resource for public benefits, health information, nutritious food and community knowledge.
You may watch the presentation at the link below at the following time on the video – 52:41.