The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) has been awarded a USDA contract to assist in improving and expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers markets nationwide. Through the contract, FMC will collaborate with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to administer $4 million in grants for SNAP programming needs and replacement wireless electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment.
Over the next twelve months, FMC will complete the following objectives in collaboration with FNS: (1) establish a process that FNS will use to award support grants to eligible farmers markets, and (2) establish and implement a process to provide replacement SNAP EBT equipment and services to farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers that are operating SNAP programs in situations of hardship.
The funds will be used to provide markets and farmers with various types of support. FNS has identified the most commonly requested types of assistance, in descending order:
- Personnel costs to operate farmers markets;
- Materials to materials to inform SNAP participants of their ability to use their benefits at farmers markets;
- Miscellaneous equipment, such as scrip, and technology infrastructure (wifi hotspots, phone lines, electrical lines, etc.);
- Replacement equipment and for existing markets and farmers that are in situations of hardship.
Needs numbered 1, 2, and 3 above will be addressed in the form of support grants for eligible farmers markets, while number 4, the need for replacement equipment, will be addressed separately. It is expected that of the total $4 million, approximately $3.3 million will be used for support grants, while the remaining $700,000 will be spent on replacement equipment.
FMC is eager to assist USDA FNS in fulfilling their goal of supporting local food systems by expanding access to healthy foods for SNAP participants. FMC Executive Director Jen Cheek shared, “SNAP redemptions at farmers markets have risen dramatically over the past five years, but they still represent a extremely small percentage of total SNAP benefit spending. This support from USDA will help markets and farmers build strong SNAP programs – getting more fresh, locally farmed food to the Americans who need it most.”