Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

SNAP Participants to Have Greater Farmers’ Market Access

Farmers’ markets have not traditionally been a go-to source of food for those enrolled in nutrition assistance programs. But with a new grant to help states bring wireless technology to these venues, the Obama administration hopes to make it possible for more farmers to redeem food vouchers from customers.

  

ptfarmersmarket-350.jpg

The $4 million in funding was announced Wednesday by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, who said the money will help beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly the food stamp program – gain access to the nation’s 7,100 operating farmers’ markets. Only 1,500 of these operations are currently set up to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) – the system through which SNAP benefits are redeemed. 

“SNAP participation at farmers’ markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers – a win-win for agriculture and local communities,” said Merrigan.

Implementing an EBT system is costly, she explained. It includes the machine, transaction costs, and people needed to run it. 

“Four million dollars in the scheme of things is not huge amount of money, noted Merrigan, but in this case “it can do huge things.”

For people who don’t live near a supermarket, or whose local grocery store isn’t open 7 days a week, the farmers’ market provides an alternative source of fresh food, said the deputy secretary. 

Merrigan also made an effort to debunk what she called myths about farmers’ markets and fresh produce.

Contrary to popular belief, farmers’ markets are not just a shopping place for the well-to-do, she said.  

“We see farmers’ markets all over the country. They don’t only crop up in high income areas.”

She also pointed out that fruits and vegetables are not out-of-reach for those on a tight budget.

“We’ve been working very hard at USDA to bust this idea that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. Our own analysis by the economic research service shows that that’s not the case. Certain fruits and vegetables that contribute to good nutrition you can get for as little as 22 cents per cup.”

The grant is intended not only to provide greater access to fresh, local foods but to inspire a lasting interest in healthier foods among kids, she explained. 

“Children are willing to try fruits and vegetables that mom and dad have a hard time selling at home on the plate because of the whole atmosphere and excitement and all kinds of innovative efforts that people make to vend at farmers’ markets.”  

The funds are being provided according to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012. They are being distributed by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which announced that it will soon post a notice in the Federal Register soliciting advice on how to spend these funds in the future. 

© Food Safety News
  • Ted

    Finally! At long last poverty stricken people can purchase a decent $5.00 heirloom tomato, $10 per pound arugula or your basic $25.00 per pound pork chops with food stamp tax dollars. It’s about time these pathetic souls got a real taste of the real food real elite people conspicuously consume. What better motivation for poor people to stop being dependent and become affluent? This is definitely a win-win for local hobby farmers and farm market landlords, as Merrigan intends and definitely another loss to taxpayers who pay for this foolish extravagance.

  • pawpaw

    Farmers market where we sell, EBT available for SNAP participants. We have private matching funds from Wholesome Wave, to double SNAP dollars. Also offer a separate, state-run program for seniors, for fresh produce and other whole foods.
    And another program where children ages 5-12 take part in educational events. Then, $2 vouchers in hand, browse then purchase their own produce.
    Emphasis is fresh, whole produce as a larger part of our customers’ diets. As diets high in such foods correlate with multiple, long-term health benefits.
    How do we promote the long-term benefits of fresh, whole food consumption, yet mindful of the acute risk (though slight) of food-borne illnesses?

  • gene

    There you go again “Ted” — puttin’ out the same ole anti-Farmers Mkt/local food disinformation stuff and hoping it will fly.
    Truth is foods are 10% to 20% CHEAPER at Farmers Markets compared to Supermarkets. See Barry Estabrook: http://politicsoftheplate.com/?p=864
    Not to mention Farmers Markets have the FRESHEST quality food available. The average travel distance on supermarket produce is 1500 miles and those leafy greens are stamped with a 17 day shelf life…

  • Prophetic Cynic

    This is another wasteful out-of-control government program, being made more ripe for fraud. There may occasionally be a couple of vegetables at the odd farm market costing 22cents per cup but certainly they are the rare exception. At any farm market I have ever walked through a person could blow their entire month’s SNAP entitlement on two or three frivolous purchases. And there would be vendors eager enough to help separate a fool from her SNAP benefits. These slippery farm market vendors keep no records, issue no receipts and deal in cash. The ideal venue to kickback cash to willing SNAP cheats. This will become just another slick ripoff, no different from greedy landlords who live off Section 8 rent subsidies or evil scammers who cheat the elderly out of social security money. Pretty smooth scam; buy $75 worth of dillweed on the scanner, actually pay $40 for a fistful of stinky useless herbs and get $35 bucks cash back. Kathleen Merrigan must have been born yesterday unless…

  • Michael Bulger

    I was just working on a paper that touched on price comparisons between farmers’ markets and supermarkets. All the research that I uncovered found that farmers’ market products were at or below the cost of their counterparts in supermarkets. (Exceptions can be meats, which can be expensive to process in small amounts. Supermarkets use big meat packers who benefit from economies of scale.)
    See the Leopold Center study from Iowa. There has also been research done on both the East and West Coasts. Some of this is done by USDA.

  • pawpaw

    Ted and Prophetic Cynic,
    Sorry you are so jaded. There are multiple markets in my area, multiple vendors at each. So one has a wide range of products and prices available. But the most common veggies can be bought same or for less than a grocery store. What makes you think my SNAP customers raise their kids on arugula?
    If you want to wean folks with less income off of taxpayer-funded programs, join many growers around the nation who donate part of their gardens/crops to food banks. Many of our vendors do so after each market. You may also volunteer at a food bank.
    We vendors do give receipts, we do have training, we do not give change for SNAP participants. They tend not to buy the most expensive items I offer, but maximize their purchasing power. And, as I noted above, Wholesome Wave, through private funds, doubles the purchasing power of SNAP participants at many farmers markets.
    Ball Canning company gave us a grant this week to teach customers (those on SNAP included) how to purchase veggies in bulk, then preserve them for future use. Note this is a private initiative.
    As for wise use of consumer and tax dollars, obesity-related diseases such as diabetes are a major budgetary problem headed forward. Efforts to change eating and exercise habits are much needed, in my opinion. Why not include SNAP, whose participants tend to be more obese?

  • pawpaw

    Ted and Prophetic Cynic,
    Sorry you are so jaded. There are multiple markets in my area, multiple vendors at each. So one has a wide range of products and prices available. But the most common veggies can be bought same or for less than a grocery store. What makes you think my SNAP customers raise their kids on arugula?
    If you want to wean folks with less income off of taxpayer-funded programs, join many growers around the nation who donate part of their gardens/crops to food banks. Many of our vendors do so after each market. You may also volunteer at a food bank.
    We vendors do give receipts, we do have training, we do not give change for SNAP participants. They tend not to buy the most expensive items I offer, but maximize their purchasing power. And, as I noted above, Wholesome Wave, through private funds, doubles the purchasing power of SNAP participants at many farmers markets.
    Ball Canning company gave us a grant this week to teach customers (those on SNAP included) how to purchase veggies in bulk, then preserve them for future use. Note this is a private initiative.
    As for wise use of consumer and tax dollars, obesity-related diseases such as diabetes are a major budgetary problem headed forward. Efforts to change eating and exercise habits are much needed, in my opinion. Why not include SNAP, whose participants tend to be more obese?

  • Leslie

    Prophetic Cynic-market vendors who accept SNAP will recieve a tax form at the end of the year (even though most of them don’t know it until they get it) so it will actually force them to claim their taxes.