May 4, 2021SNAP opportunities for your market expanded
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, is the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program. Over the pandemic, the federal government has expanded the benefit amounts to help the growing number of people who need them to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for their families. In November 2020, $7.8 billion was issued, which is nearly double the amount from the same time the previous year.
In conversations I’ve had with farmers’ market managers, they shared with me that their SNAP redemption numbers for 2020 were double from previous years. In some cases, over 100% higher.
Perhaps your market has tried in past years to become a SNAP vendor but found it to be too rigorous and, perhaps, too expensive. There have been changes to the program that, hopefully, markets will be able to take advantage of and become a SNAP retailer, which can benefit not only your business but also members of your community who need them. For example, a farmers’ market or farm stand used to have to apply under the category of “grocery,” which meant there was a lot of information requested that didn’t apply to them. Now, there are specific categories for “farmers’ market” or “direct marketing” farmers.
Check with your state agencies to see if there is an equipment program. Here in Pennsylvania, our Department of Human Services manages free wireless equipment through a grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Check the map at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/state-directory and click on your state. It will show you which agency manages a program and their contact information.
There is a national equipment program as well. MarketLink is a program of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) that assists farmers and markets with accepting SNAP. The program provides a free Bluetooth SNAP/EBT card reader to use with any smart device and 1-year free use of the point-of-sale app for processing payments.
Some states also have a statewide matching program, sometimes known as a “double bucks” program, where the SNAP recipient can receive twice the value of their SNAP benefits, which allows them to purchase more. To apply to accept SNAP benefits at your farm stand or farmers market, you will need to get a USDA account and fill out an application online.
Complete your application online at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/farmerproducer. You can also request a paper application by calling the toll-free telephone number at 1-877-823-4369.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our markets have seen an increase in sales and new customers and reliance on a more local food system. Accepting SNAP benefits at our markets is not only good for our business, but it’s also good for our communities.
— Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension