SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps low-income households meet daily nutritional needs to overcome food insecurity.
In 2015, $19.4 million of SNAP redemptions took place at farmers’ markets. SNAP sales at farmers’ markets will continue to climb as an increasing number of markets and direct marketing farms facilitate SNAP purchases.
What is SNAP?
SNAP is a USDA Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) program. One in seven Americans receives SNAP benefits to help purchase healthy food. Participants must apply for benefits and meet program income requirements. Over 50 percent of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or disabled individuals.
Funds are issued to recipients each month via EBT debit card. Items eligible for SNAP purchase include perishable foods intended for home preparation. Food plants and seeds to produce food can also be purchased with SNAP. Fruit, vegetables, meat, meat alternatives and grains account for the majority of SNAP expenditures.
How farmers can help
SNAP provides low-income households with purchasing power, but many SNAP recipients reside in areas with low access to fresh food markets. Obesity and health epidemics are prevalent in households with low-income and low access to healthy foods.
The mobile nature of farmer markets and direct marketing farms provides an opportunity to bring fresh, healthy foods to individuals in need.
Accepting SNAP payments
Vendors must file an application with the Federal Nutrition Service in order to accept SNAP payments. Farmers can apply independently, or a farmers’ market can apply collectively.
Once the application is approved, the FNS issues a license and permit number. Application and instructions at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers. For assistance call customer service at (877) 823-4369.
Point-of-sale processing. Funds are administered to recipients monthly via SNAP debit card. Point-of-sales equipment (POS) is necessary to process electronic business transactions. The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides free POS equipment and SNAP EBT processing services to eligible applicants.
POS equipment can also be used to process credit and debit cards. Processing credit and debit incurs additional fees, including a monthly subscription fee.
Tokens. In most farmers’ market arrangements, the market operates under a single SNAP license and permit, processing cards at a central station.
SNAP recipients purchase tokens using SNAP debit card. Tokens typically cost $1 and $5, and never expire. Shoppers use tokens to buy fresh foods from market vendors. Vendors cash out tokens at end-of-day.
- SNAP Guide for Farmers Markets, The Farmers Market Coalition (2016)
- Building a Healthy America: A Profile of SNAP, USDA Federal Nutrition Service (2012)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), USDA Federal Nutrition Service
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