We passed a milestone this week and received approval from the USDA to be an authorized retailer for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program) benefits. That means that we have their blessing to accept SNAP at the market! (SNAP is the equivalent of food stamps, which have been phased out by the USDA.)
Our EBT machine will be shipped in a couple of weeks, and then we'll begin training on how to use it! The process is going to be seamless...at least, that's our hope. You never know with new technology, but we'll get all the bugs worked out so that a larger number of customers will have access to the market.
Here are the basics: we are likely going to use a token system. When someone who receives SNAP benefits comes to the market, they go to the Market Master booth and swipe their card. They then determine about how much they want to spend (in whole dollar increments) and receive that many $1 tokens. They can then use the tokens to purchase produce, some kinds of plants, and other items. That seems simple enough, right?
Well, there are some restrictions on what they can purchase with their $1 tokens. Here's what is says on the USDA's SNAP website about eligible products:
SNAP benefits CAN be used to buy:
Foods to eat, such as:
- breads and cereals;
- fruits and vegetables;
- meats, fish and poultry (this one doesn't pertain to us, since meat can't be sold at the market); and
- dairy products (same thing with this one).
- Seeds and plants which produce food to eat.
SNAP benefits CANNOT be used to buy: Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco (no issue with that at our market); and any nonfood items, such as:
- pet foods;
- soaps, paper products; and
- household supplies.
- Vitamins and medicines.
- Food that will be eaten at the market.
- Hot foods.
I'm certain that this isn't an exhaustive list, but it should give you some idea of what SNAP benefits can be used to purchase. For more information, check out the website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/Default.htm.
There are other benefits to this program and things that we are working on for the May 8th Meet Me at the Market Event, but you'll just have to stay tuned for those!