The good news keeps on coming: In farmers markets across the country, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit redemptions (aka food stamps) generated $18.8 million in the 2014 fiscal year – “a nearly six-fold increase since 2008,” the United States Department of Agriculture reports.
In the same time period, the number of farmers markets that take food stamps grew from 753 to more than 6,400, according to the USDA. Impressive! So what’s is responsible for this boom in SNAP-friendly vendors? Technology, actually.
Through a partnership with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, USDA provides free wireless equipment to qualifying farmers and farmers markets, enabling them to accept SNAP via electronic benefit transfers (EBT). Additionally, in May, USDA announced the availability of $3.3 million in competitive funding to help farmers markets serve SNAP participants.
USDA also recently awarded $31.5 million in funding to local, state, and national organizations to support programs that encourage SNAP participants to buy more fruits and vegetables, including the fresh produce found at America’s farmers markets and direct marketing farm outlets. Funded through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the projects will help policymakers determine how best to provide incentives to SNAP participants to increase healthy purchases.
The rise in farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits is good for farmers, too. Aside from allowing more of them to engage with local communities, being able to take EBT payments creates a larger market for retailing the fruits of their labor.