Contact Amber Canto, 608-265-4975, firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristin Krokowski, 262-548-7768, email@example.com
Farmers’ markets offer great opportunities to buy seasonal, local and healthy produce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has prioritized better access to healthy food through farmers’ markets to people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin.
“While the number of farmers’ markets authorized to accept FoodShare in Wisconsin, and total FoodShare redemptions have increased in recent years, we still have a lot of room to grow,” says Kristin Krokowski, horticulture educator with Waukesha County UW-Extension.
Wisconsin has roughly 250 farmers’ markets; currently, less than one-third accept federal food and nutrition assistance program benefits. According to the USDA, FoodShare sales at farmers’ markets in Wisconsin totaled $215,700 in 2013. In Michigan, 83 percent of more than 335 farmers’ markets accept SNAP, with SNAP accounting for over $1.7 million in sales in 2013.
Approximately 20 percent of Wisconsin’s population participates in FoodShare. The program is designed to help people with limited money buy the food they need for good health; reduce food insecurity; and improve nutrition. Benefits can be used to purchase breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products, and seeds and plants to grow food.
The University of Wisconsin-Extension has teamed up with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to provide information to farmers’ markets and communities interested in expanding access to healthy foods through farmers’ markets for FoodShare users.
“Farmers’ markets provide opportunities to teach people about nutrition and encourage healthier habits,” says Amber Canto, poverty and food security specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. “Several studies have shown that individuals shopping at farmers’ markets consume more fruits and vegetables.”
For FoodShare participants to use their monthly benefits at the farmers’ market, an individual vendor or market must be authorized by the USDA to accept electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Wired devices to process the cards are available for free from the USDA, but most markets prefer to acquire wireless systems that do not require connection to a phone line or electricity. In the event a market cannot operate a point-of-sale device on-site, paper vouchers can be used.
While there is a cost to obtaining wireless EBT devices, vendors or markets might be eligible for state or federal funds that cover the initial cost.