MORE program equals less hunger


Ian Hilton

Chico Natural Foods Co-op Brand Manager Joey Haney is eager to greet CalFresh recipients with a substantial discount.

Chico Natural Foods Co-op offers discount for CalFresh recipients

The Matching on Regional Eats program allows California EBT users to enjoy a 50% discount of up to $20 on produce purchased at the Chico Natural Foods Cooperative, located at 818 Main St. in Chico.

The MORE program is the result of a federal and state grant introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture and formalized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, the MORE program has relaxed restrictions on retail establishments allowing the discount to extend beyond farmers markets.

Joey Haney, Brand Manager at Chico Natural Foods Co-op, beams as his years-long attempts at securing this grant proved fruitful.

“I’m very excited about this,” Haney said. “I’m very proud to have the Co-op be the first retail establishment in town and one of the very few in the states to take the lead on this. To be one of the first? I’m very proud of that, but I would love to see it spread too.”

Haney described the new program’s discount.

“If someone buys $40 worth of California grown produce at the Co-op, and they use CalFresh, this program will give them $20 off of that produce,” Haney said. 

Haney emphasized that there’s no minimum amount needed for the discount.

Currently, the Co-op is the only retail establishment in Chico that offers this program, though the Chico Farmers Market offers the same doubling of benefits in the form of tokens.

“There are only really a handful of retail establishments that, as far as I know, have received this grant in California,” Haney said, “and maybe just a couple dozen across the whole country.”

For Chico State Wildcats, the MORE program will have a substantial economic impact.

“It’s estimated that the number of Chico State students eligible for CalFresh food benefits is around 50%,” said Joe Picard, the Basic Needs Director at Chico State, noting that the amount of students who utilize CalFresh benefits is far less.

“That [50% figure] matches the Pell Grant number, pretty much,” Picard said, “… so you have to figure that half the students coming to Chico State are coming from low- or lower-income backgrounds.”

Applying for CalFresh can seem intimidating, but Chico State offers resources to ease the process.

“Students need to know that it takes a little bit of effort; you have to show your financial documents, you have to go through a process,” Picard said. “It’s worth it, but we want to make it easier.”

Haney was adamant in debunking a common misconception about the MORE program.

“You do not have to be a Co-op member to get this benefit,” Haney said. “This is for anyone who gets CalFresh,” and CalFresh recipients need only state that they’ll be paying with CalFresh benefits before purchase.

“I love stuff that empowers people to make the decisions that are best for them, so that you can buy whatever California fresh produce you want and it’s more affordable,” Haney said. “I would love it if more retail stores got this. I would love it if it goes on for years and years.”

The grant is set to expire in 2022, but Haney’s optimism isn’t phased.

“We are absolutely going to try and extend it and apply for new grants and keep this going as long as we can,” Haney said.

Students interested in CalFresh enrollment are encouraged to visit the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry or contact Emily Foxworthy, the campus CalFresh outreach point, at [email protected] and (530) 898-4097 for assistance.

The Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry is open Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.(or by appointment) at the Student Services Center, room 196, and can be reached at (530) 898-4098.

Ian Hilton can be reached at [email protected]