The undersigned members of Maryland’s anti-hunger community write to express our strong support for inclusion of funding for the Maryland Farms and Families Program in the 2018 state budget.
More than 682,000 Marylanders—1 in 8—do not have enough to eat. Federal food assistance programs, such as SNAP and WIC, provide critical support to Maryland families struggling to put food on their plates. However, the allotments of these benefits programs are insufficient for affording a nutritious diet, particularly in a state with high cost of living.
In Maryland and nationwide, farmers market “matching” programs have demonstrated effectiveness at increasing the purchasing power of low-income households to afford healthy foods. These programs provide a dollar-for-dollar match for purchases made using federal food assistance at participating farmers markets, thereby connecting food-insecure households with quality, fresh foods produced by local farmers.
The Maryland Farms and Families Act, which passed unanimously through both houses during the 2017 legislative session and which you signed into law this May, created an unfunded grant program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture that would support matching programs at Maryland farmers markets. Farmers market matching programs, which were first introduced in Maryland and have rapidly proliferated throughout the country, are a win-win: the same dollar simultaneously supports Maryland farmers and provides our state’s most vulnerable households with critical access to nutritious foods.
A modest state investment of $500,000 would provide tremendous benefit to farmers and families alike. These dollars would:
o Generate revenue for farmers and agricultural producerso Channel federal dollars into the local Maryland economyo Benefit farmers markets statewide, particularly in rural and food desert communitieso Provide critical nutrition assistance
Moreover, state funding would lay the groundwork for a thriving public-private partnership. Since 2013, the non-profit Maryland Farmers Market Association has operated Maryland Market Money (MMM), a farmers market matching program in place at 24 markets spanning the state, almost entirely with private dollars. MDFMA has distributed more than $460,000 in MMM matching dollars, generating over $1.4 million in revenue for local producers. State investment would enable this and other farmers market matching programs to leverage private funding, supporting Maryland’s hard-working farmers and our neighbors in need.
As leaders of Maryland’s anti-hunger community, we thank you for supporting our state’s most vulnerable residents by signing the Maryland Farms and Families Act. We hope to see you make this commitment to struggling Maryland families a reality by funding the bill in the 2018 state budget.