In November and December, I had a the pleasure of speaking at a series of workshops across the state aimed at increasing Farmers Markets' participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and educating market managers how they can benefit from accepting these benefits at their markets.
The workshops were facilitated and hosted by the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) and were a great success, with nearly 40 market managers from all over the state attending to learn about SNAP in Massachusetts and how SNAP benefits, if accepted, represent an enormous potential sales increase for many farmers markets. Currently nearly 700,000 citizens of the Commonwealth are enrolled in SNAP--and research indicates that many more qualify but are not enrolled. Each of these 700,000 individuals receives a monthly benefit for the purchase of food--and currently, much of that revenue is being captured by large supermarkets and smaller convenience stores. Small farmers and other local food vendors--who often struggle to make enough to stay in business year after year--could stand to benefit greatly from their involvement with the SNAP/EBT programs.
GWL's Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market has been accepting SNAP/Food Stamps/EBT for the past three years and has seen a considerable increase in SNAP/Food Stamp sales each year--a 67% increase from 2008-2009 alone! GWL has also been noted for its innovative efforts to reach out to SNAP/Food Stamp beneficiaries and was able to share these outreach strategies and best practices with attendees of the workshops. To view the presentation GWL gave at the workshops, visit DAR's website (scroll down nearly to the bottom of the page and click on the document titled "Utilizing EBT at Farmers Markets" by Groundwork Lawrence under "EBT/SNAP Resources").