Photo: cafemama (flickr)
Farmers markets are cranking into full gear for the new season, and vendors are working hard to make their food more accessible to lower-income families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
On April 30, USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon announced $4 million in expanded grant eligibility for farmers markets and direct-market farmers looking to begin use of wireless point-of-sale equipment. This equipment makes it easier for customers using food stamps to purchase fresh produce from their local market.
Direct-marketing farmers who want to acquire EBT equipment must regularly participate in farmers markets where neither the market itself nor any other regularly participating vendor is already equipped to accept EBT payments.
The goal of the project, explains a USDA announcement, is to increase SNAP visibility at markets in the hope of encouraging other vendors to join.
Benefits For Consumers, Farmers
The ability to purchase produce through the farmer’s market benefits farmers and consumers alike.
Increasing farmers’ ability to collect SNAP payments will increase the percentage of SNAP funds that find their way into the pockets of local farmers.
Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) are also eligible to accept SNAP payments, though it requires some extra work on the part of the farmer since SNAP guidelines dictate that the consumer must receive their food within two weeks of paying for it.
While most CSA subscribers pay a lump sum in the early spring that covers the cost of their full season’s share, SNAP users and farmers must work together to arrange a biweekly transfer of funds during the growing season.
The USDA estimates that in 2012 3,200 farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers were set up to accept SNAP benefits, up from 750 in 2008.
Farm Futures points out that this four-fold expansion of SNAP accessibility has been accompanied by a six-fold increase in the frequency of SNAP benefit redemption through these outlets.