USDA Releases Guide to Expand SNAP Benefit Electronic Technology at Farmers Markets

USDA Press Release No. 0346.10 Contact: Michael Jarvis 202-690-3816 ASHEVILLE, N.C., June 26, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To Handbook. The handbook provides the managers of farmers markets with a step-by-step guide to installing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines and accepting SNAP benefits. Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward M. Avalos made the national announcement at the Asheville City Market. "It is important for people throughout the country to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and by promoting SNAP EBT's 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 was developed by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), in cooperation with the Project for Public Spaces. It provides essential guidance for farmers market managers who are thinking about implementing EBT technology at their market sites to allow them to accept SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps). Topics addressed in the handbook include how to install an EBT machine and how to make the program work successfully for vendors and customers. The handbook also features a list of resources, a glossary of important terms, and several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented EBT technology.

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

The number of SNAP recipients is at a historic high. Enhancing the ability of SNAP recipients to purchase fresh produce at farmers markets and farm stands can help market vendors realize substantial increases in revenue and increase access to fresh, healthful food to more American households. The total value of SNAP redemptions at farmers markets and food stands doubled from $2 million to $4 million between fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Currently, there are more than 1,100 farmers markets and farm stands using EBT machines across the country.

In FY 2009, 946 farmers’ markets participated in SNAP. Over the past five years, the number of farmers markets increased 250 percent. As of May 2, 2010, there are 1,156 authorized FMs in SNAP. More SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets in fiscal year 2009 during October than any other month of the year. Of the 3,153 counties in the United States, 496 (16%) have at least one SNAP authorized market.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To Handbook, is available at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/MarketingServicesPublications. Find a farmers market near you by visiting USDA’s farmers market directory at: http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/.

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