THIRD STREET — When most Santa Monicans think of what you can get with food stamps we think of government cheese, not organic cheese.
However, now that all four of the weekly Farmers’ Markets in the city accept food stamps, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) meal plans, making smart food choices doesn’t require a six-figure income.
“I think it’s difficult to eat healthy in general, there’s a higher patronage of places that don’t have health food,” said Jodi Low, Farmers’ Market coordinator.
Low says food assistance programs have been growing in popularity as of late, despite the fact that most residents are financially secure and have no need for food stamps.
“New patrons who didn’t realize we use it, are really grateful for it,” said Low. “Some vendors will even double their coupons.”
This comes as news to some market patrons.
“It’s surprising to me how inexpensive it is to eat healthy,” said Kirk White, who was strolling around the Saturday Downtown market with family and stroller in tow.
White, who oversees university conduct at UCLA, has made trips to the Farmers’ Market more frequently since the birth of his twin daughters, Zoe and Naomi.
“I think we have a great food and dining program [at UCLA],” said White, “but it’s hard to escape the allure of comfort food.”
Although Trojans and Bruins don’t agree on much, Hayley Saathoff, a University of Southern California student who stumbled onto the market with her friends, shares White’s sentiment.
Saathoff says eating healthy as a student living on campus with a meal plan isn’t as easy as one would hope.
“It’s easier to eat stuff not good for you, they don’t have fruits,” she said.
College students aren’t the only ones attracted to the fresh produce.
“I come here for the free samples,” said University High School senior Jessica Martinez.
Martinez is a big fan of the food, but not always the prices found at the market.
“The price of an apple is three bucks, you could buy a pound of apples at that price,” she said. “Sometimes it’s worth it.”
Laurence Reynolds thinks it’s always worth it. Reynolds a 15-year Santa Monica resident has been walking to the Farmers’ Markets ever since moving.
“I think it’s a good investment here for the city of Santa Monica,” Reynolds said. “It’s nice to reward people doing it right.”
The shoppers aren’t the only ones with stories to tell. Among the sea of citizens are the vendors who have their own unique commitments to good food.
“Some customers still don’t know all the produce sold here is grown in state,” said Low.
While the jury is still out on whether or not eating healthy is cheaper than eating poorly, it’s clear that everyone who comes to the Farmers’ Market leaves with a smile.
“You get to be surrounded by great flowers, food, and weather. There’s no better job for me,” said Low. “It’s the best place on Earth.”