Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller highlighted an opportunity for farmers markets to address food security in their local communities and expand their consumer base by taking advantage of free electronic benefit transfer equipment to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from residents.
“Farmers markets who don’t accept SNAP are missing an opportunity to serve their community by providing those who rely on the benefits with access to nutritious, local food,” said Redding. “Not only does accepting SNAP benefit your community, but it benefits you. It’s an opportunity to expand your consumer base and increase your sales.”
The Department of Human Services has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to support access to fresh, healthy foods for SNAP recipients while supporting Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy. Interested market owners should apply to be an authorized SNAP retailer through FNS. Once authorized to accept SNAP, vendors can contact Pennsylvania’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) provider Conduent at 1-888-736-6328 to request free wireless EBT processing equipment. The grant also covers set-up costs and one year of SNAP transaction fees.
“Becoming an authorized SNAP retailer is a common-sense way to help small businesses grow their consumer base and to support families so they can keep food on the table. SNAP is the nation’s most important and effective anti-hunger program; it helps individuals and families stretch their budgets, reduces the burden on local charitable food networks, and supports local retailers and grocers,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We want to do everything we can to help families who are feeling this economic strain most acutely and small businesses that have had to weather the last year of economic uncertainty, which is why we are so proud to offer this opportunity. I strongly encourage farmers markets across Pennsylvania to apply to be an authorized SNAP retailer.”
Pennsylvania is home to more nearly 1,000 farmers markets and on-farm markets, however only 48 – less than 5% – are registered with FNS to accept SNAP benefits. By taking advantage of the opportunity for free EBT equipment to accept SNAP through the Department of Human Services, farmers markets can offer a new avenue for Pennsylvanians who rely on SNAP to spend their benefits on fresh, nutritious food. For farmers markets operators, there is no difference in accepting SNAP than accepting debit or credit transactions and SNAP benefits cover the full price that any consumer would pay at market for products.
“Throughout the pandemic, Managers of farmers markets and on-farm markets who redeem SNAP benefits have reported their redemption numbers have, in most cases, double from previous years,” said Brian Moyer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Farmers Market Association. “This reflects the critical role that these markets play as an essential source of food and nutrition in our communities and the wireless EBT equipment makes SNAP redemption easier to use for outdoor community farmers markets.”
Farmers markets who operate in urban areas or other known food deserts across the commonwealth, or those who operate with a mobile market model, have an especially unique opportunity to fill a void and address food apartheid’s that have developed leaving residents who rely on stores within walking distance minimal options for fresh, nutritious food outside of the shelf stable options found in convenience stores. By accepting SNAP, urban or traveling markets can address inequities of the food system and improve health for those who live there.
Families who are having trouble affording enough food are encouraged to take advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP provides assistance to low-income and working Pennsylvanians, allowing them to purchase produce and groceries for themselves and their family.
SNAP helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including children, people with disabilities, older adults, and working Pennsylvanians, expand purchasing power to ensure their household has enough food to avoid going hungry.
SNAP is issued through a monthly payment to an electronic benefit transfer card, and benefits are based off income and household size. People can apply for SNAP and other public assistance programs online at www.compass.state.pa.us or over the phone by calling 1-866-550-4355. Those who prefer to submit a paper application can print from the website, pick one up at a County Assistance Office (CAO), or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local CAO or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed to the public.
For more information on food security in Pennsylvania including information about resources and actions taken by the Wolf Administration, visit agriculture.pa.gov/foodsecurity.