Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides over 45 million low-income Americans with monthly benefits that can be used to purchase most foods and beverages. Each year program participants spend roughly $70 billion in SNAP benefits, including more than $22.4 million at farmers markets in 2017. While SNAP helps low-income Americans purchase food, the program also supports farmers and farmers markets in all 50 states.
SNAP at the Market
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is a system that allows customers to use SNAP benefits from a government-issued debit card at farmers markets as well as brick-and-mortar stores. All states now use EBT to issue SNAP benefits rather than the old system of paper vouchers. Markets must be licensed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to accept EBT SNAP benefits.
SNAP customers redeem their benefits by swiping their EBT card on a point-of-sale (POS) terminal at the market in exchange for tokens or a paper receipt, which they can use to buy eligible food products from participating vendors. Farmers and vendors can become authorized to administer their own SNAP program, but it’s most common for markets to use a centralized POS.