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Food Stamps

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Farmer’s markets are experiencing fast growth around the country, but these markets are also having a hard time trying to appeal to food stamp users. Farmer’s markets have grown according to reports from the USDA , which showed there are 7,864 markets in the United States, which is up from just 1,755 in 1994. However, access for food stamp users is still limited. So what’s going on?

One of the main problems is that only 1,645 accept payments from SNAP, that’s only about 1 in 5 according to USDA’s report. Though these numbers only represent cases that are self-represented to the USDA and may not look at all of the different markets across the United States, in general food stamp use is not common at farmer’s markets in most areas. Many proponents are asking that farmer’s markets be upgraded to handle EBT card payments or at least have a self-service ATM that allows you to withdraw and use the benefits to pay for farmer’s market goods.

“There’s definitely a process, and a cost associated with it,” said Nicky Uy, who is the senior associate at Food Trust, the non-profit organization that operates more than 30 farmer’s markets in the Philadelphia area. Only two of Uy’s farmer’s markets don’t accept SNAP payments.

There’s a few obstacles that face farmer’s markets when trying to allow food stamp use.

“Your organization needs to get an FNS number, and they need to be able to purchase or rent a point-of-sale machine, and there has to be a way to reimburse the farmers. So there has to be some kind of system and back-end accounting,” said Uy.

The FNS number is what designates that the farmer’s market is an approved SNAP participant. However, the USDA is working to fix the problems associated with farmer’s markets and food stamps. Earlier in 2012, the USDA announced that it was spending $4 million to help markets get point-of-sale equipment ready to accept EBT cards.

In the meantime, if you have a farmer’s market close by, just stop in and ask about food stamps or call the organization beforehand to inquire about what the rules are for using SNAP benefits. In some cases, you may be able to use your EBT card by going to a point-of-sale ATM at the farmer’s market.

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