American consumers are enjoying increasingly more opportunities to buy food directly from farmers, and state and federal agriculture departments are working together to increase SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients’ access to farmers’ fresh products and farmers’ markets.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will join North Carolina State Agencies for Agriculture and MarketLink to host a SNAP Merchant Sign-up Day April 1.
Grants are available for free wireless Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) equipment and internet access. The USDA SNAP sign-up day will provide a one-stop-shop to help direct marketing farmers get authorized, receive additional support for incentive programs to encourage SNAP customers to shop at farms and farmers’ markets, and help create a win/win situation for farmers, customers, and local economies.
“North Carolina’s farmers are instrumental in providing fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods throughout the State”, says Erin Swanson-Hall, Southeast deputy regional administrator for USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
“We are striving to expand access to healthy food to those participating in SNAP,” she says. “We encourage direct marketing farmers and farmer's markets who are not currently participating in the SNAP Program to attend this special sign-up event. The ability to accept SNAP benefits helps farmers expand their customer base and economically support their local community.”
North Carolina SNAP authorized farmers and farmers markets can also participate in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Plan to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.
Currently in North Carolina, there are 86 direct marketing farmers and 98 farmers’ markets authorized to accept SNAP statewide.