By Holly Calhoun
Wednesday May 9, the USDA announced $4 million in funding to increase the number of farmers’ markets accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. The funding could increase revenues for farmers, improve fresh food access, and stimulate local economies by providing technology to farmers’ markets to allow SNAP customers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the farmers who grow them. Lack of technology has been a major barrier for farmers’ markets to accept SNAP since the shift from paper food stamps to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The USDA has long provided EBT terminals to brick and mortar stores. Farmers’ markets (many of which lack electricity and phone lines) require wireless terminals. Currently less than 25 percent of farmers’ markets are authorized to accept SNAP.
The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition launched in November 2011 with the goal of boosting the agriculture sector and improving the health of the nation by forming cross-sectoral partnerships. The Coalition worked together with 40 public health, agriculture, and anti-hunger organizations to deliver a letter on November 18 urging the USDA to fund EBT technology in farmers’ markets. The Coalition commends the USDA’s leadership and is excited to see an early success in working with key partners across sectors for the mutual benefit of farmers and human health.
Enabling farmers’ markets to accept EBT increases revenue in direct to consumer sales for farmers and allows low-income shoppers who are at disproportionately high risk for preventable chronic disease to eat a healthier diet. The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition applauds the USDA for providing funds that directly support the economic viability of farmers and health of communities. The Coalition thanks all 40 organizations that worked together for this important gain. The Coalition looks to build and grow these collaborations in a continued effort to better support America’s farmers and the health of the nation.
Read the full letter to the USDA with the list of signatories by clicking here.