The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the release of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To Handbook.  The handbook provides farmers market managers with step-by-step directions on how to install Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines and accept SNAP benefits.

Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward M. Avalos made the announcement at the Ashville City Market in Ashville, NC on Saturday.

farmers-market-snap-featured.jpg“It is important for people throughout the country to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and by promoting SNAP EBTs at farmers markets, we are accomplishing that goal while providing more economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers,” said Avalos. “This new handbook provides critical information to farmers market managers and spurs economic opportunities for local producers and I encourage more markets to take advantage of using EBT machines.”

The handbook covers issues pertaining to SNAP benefits, (previously known as food stamps) including how to install an EBT machine, how to make the program work successfully for vendors and customers, a glossary of important terms, several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented EBT technology, and a list of additional resources.

“By welcoming SNAP benefits, farmers markets provide access to fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods which may not otherwise be easily available,” Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services commented.  “It is a win-win for both farmers and SNAP recipients.”

The implementation of SNAP technology at farmers markets and farm stands is aimed at increasing access to fresh, healthful food for more American households as well as helping market vendors realize substantial increases in revenue.  

According to the USDA, the current number of SNAP recipients is at a historic high.  From 2008 to 2009, the total value of SNAP redemptions at farmers markets and food stands doubled from $2 million to $4 million.

Over the past five years, the number of farmers markets increased 250 percent.  In 2009 alone, 949 farmers’ markets participated in SNAP and more SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets in the fiscal year 2009 during October than any other month of the year.  

Currently, there are more than 1,100 farmers markets and farm stands across the country using EBT machines.  As of May 2, 2010, there were 1,156 authorized farmers’ markets enrolled in SNAP and of the 3,153 counties in the United States, 496 have at least one EBT-authorized market.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) teamed up with the Project for Public Spaces to develop the handbook.  

The SNAP at Farmers Markets: A How-To Handbook is available on the USDA’s Website.

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