Using SNAP food stamps at a farmers market.
Thousands of farmers markets allow families to shop using their EBT - Electronic Benefits Transfer card, which is issued as part of SNAP food stamps. They can use their government benefits to purchase the healthy food that they need for their families. One of the benefits to using SNAP at a farmers market is that it may allow the person to receive fresher, healthier food such as produce, fruits, greens, plant seeds, meats, and much more.
There are still restrictions in place. The food stamps will only pay for non-prepared items. So a family can't go to a farmers market and buy hot meals, snacks, or other so called trinkets that may be for sale there. So the concept is the same as if the beneficiary were shopping at a local grocery grocery. Only non-prepared foodstuffs can be covered by SNAP.
How to use food stamps at a farmers market
The first thing someone should do is research the location just to be sure they accept EBT cards as a form of payment. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) needs to authorize the location in advance, and thousands have already been approved. People can do this online (as most farmers markets have a website) or just call the site. The goods news is that chances are the location does accept the Electronic Benefits Transfer card, as thousands of markets currently allow food stamp vouchers to be used by their customers.
If it has been confirmed that the farmers market accepts the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), then the family can stop by the site to shop. Only non-prepared/meal items can be paid for by this benefit program. All of the same rules and regulations are in place. So there are not any exceptions or additional benefits to be had by shopping at a farmer's market other than the quality of the produce may be even better. What a consumer can buy at a farmers market includes the following:
- Fruits, such as strawberries, bananas, melons, and many more.
- Fresh vegetables, including, but not limited to lettuce, carrots, kale, etc.
- Dairy items, such as cheese or yogurt.
- Breads and cereals, providing they are not prepared meals.
If the farmers market sells meats, chicken, or fish, then EBT cards can be used to buy those items too. These too can often be fresher at one of these locations. Or to buy those items then a family can shop at other markets provided that they accept the EBT card.
Something that is maybe more unique to a farmers market is the ability for a family to buy plant seeds (or even fully grown plants) that are oriented towards fruit or vegetables. Food stamps will help pay for these goods too. So if there was a tomato plant for sale at a farmers market, the EBT card could buy that. It can't pay for flowers or those types of goods.
Many of the markets also offer additional services to low income senior citizens that are enrolled into SNAP food stamps. There may be volunteers that can bring their groceries out to their car or deliver them to their home, or they are also wheelchair accessible. Not only that, but the healthier food, produce, and other items at a farmers market will all meet the USDA nutritional guidelines for the elderly.
Another tip for using SNAP food stamps at a farmers markets to look for any locations that provide additional matching contributions. As an example, there are hundreds of sites that will “double up” the amount on the card. So if the family were to buy $10 of fruits or vegetables using their EBT card, then that amount will be matched by the market. This type of deals allows the shopper to buy an extra $10 worth of food, which will technically be for free. So the end result is a low income family can get $20 of fresh food, meats, seeds, and more and will only need to pay $10 on their EBT card. It is recommended to always look for these types of arrangements.
The actual payment process is very straightforward. The farmers market will allow the shopper to present their EBT - Electronic Benefits Transfer card at a point-of-sale when checking out. The beneficiary just needs to swipe their card at this terminal and the amount will be deducted from their monthly benefit.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) coordinates with markets all over the nation to ensure the service is efficient. They will also set guidelines on what can be paid for. If the family tries to buy something that is not allowed as part of food stamps, then the transaction will be denied. So as noted above, all of the current rules and regulations still need to be adhered too.