Friday, August 29, 2008

Green Light for Food Stamps at Farmers Markets

New York State is leading the way in increasing food stamp recipients’ access to local, fresh produce. Supported by the Federal Food Stamp program, farmers markets across the state have installed wireless electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminals that work like credit card machines to accept benefit cards.

The initiative is helping to ensure that benefits recipients, whose food options are often limited to the unhealthy offerings of bodegas or discount stores due to the low concentration of grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods, have an accessible and affordable source for fresh food.

The wireless EBT terminals benefit both food stamp customers and farmers market retailers, who have reported increased profits after installing the EBT terminals. “The markets much, much busier,” said New York farmer Richard Hayberger, who reported a $500 monthly increase in profits since Rochester farmers markets started accepting EBT.

EBT terminals have been installed in 87 of New York’s 400 markets, sparking a dramatic increase in statewide food stamp sales at farmers markets from $3,000 in 2002 to $90,000 in 2007.

More federal funding will be needed to extend EBT access to all state farmers markets. Current funding levels will only cover the cost of expanding the program to 130, or about 1/3, of all New York’s farmers markets.

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