Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food Stamps and Farmer's Markets

Here's another great post from

Tell me what you think? 

Any ideas for a solution?

Help devise a system for using food stamps to buy better produce.

We all can agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of good health. Yet access to fresh produce remains an enormous challenge. For people on food stamps, it’s an especially difficult one as there are few supermarkets in low income neighborhoods with sufficient offerings. Even thought more farmers’ markets are springing up across the country—and more than 750 farmers’ markets nationwide accept food stamps—other challenges remain.

Foodstamps, of course, are no longer physical stamps but “electronic benefit transfer” cards (or EBTs). This has helped remove the stigma for recipients of aid—and makes shopping at supermarkets easier—but has left farmers’ markets in a tough spot: without a battery-powered wireless card reader, food-stamp recipients can't use their EBT cards. The lack of this simple machine is keeping people from buying fresh food. Many farmers are unable to afford the cost of the equipment (about $1,100 per reader) required to accept the debit cards; others feel the paperwork and record keeping is onerous.

Some (but not all) states have agreed to fund programs to facilitate the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets. Vendors can use hand-held devices, and in some cases cell phones, to process transactions. Other markets, like San Francisco’s Alemany Market, allow EBT card users to exchange their credit for market-specific tokens that can be used at individual booths, but the extra step required has resulted in a drop off in use of food stamps at farmers’ markets.

All of which begs the question: how can we make food stamps easier to use and to accept at farmers’ markets?


Make it easy to use and accept food stamps at farmers’ markets.


Invent a low cost, easy to implement solution. Is it an app? Centralized check-out? Delivery? Something totally low tech? Barter? Trade? Let us know.


Post a comment, tweet @GOOD, or e-mail projects[at]goodinc[dot]com with your solution to the problem of how to accept food stamps at farmers' markets. Your response can take the form of a sentence, a paragraph, a sketch, an annotated photo—whatever you think will best convey your idea. Deadline is Monday, March 29.

To check this site click here.


smh00a said...

Our local farmer's market takes both food stamps and WIC. But it gets better ... the market DOUBLES their value if spent on fresh produce.

And to think our neighborhood was called a "food desert" a few years ago. Phooey!

Thanks for posting this.

Lorlee said...

How about taking it one step backward and encouraging the actual growing of the fresh fruits and vegetables. Anyone who lives in a house can find a spot to grow a few onions, a pack of lettuce, etc. Even in an apartment, a pot garden can be very bountiful. So I think we should be giving away pots and seeds.

Chris said...

It seems to me if people can't find their way to a supermarket it would be even harder to find a farmers market. I wouldn't even know where to start.

Larry James said...

chris, don't intend to be insulting, but this ranks as one of your most ill-informed and insensitive comments so far. The absence of grocery markets in inner city Dallas is a big, big problem. The problem is not with the savvy of the residents. Really remarkable response.

Chris said...

I understand the fact that there are fewer supermarkets but isn't there even less farmers markets? It seems to me a supermarket would be easier to find than a farmers market.

Daniel Gray said...

Steve, that's awesome that they double EBT value.

Many vendors in StL have card readers for food stamps. I thought that was awesome to see. And yes, I have seen many low-income people using this opportunity, despite Chris' bigotry and ignorance.

I agree with Lorlee -- would love to see more home gardening.

smh00a said...

Most urban farmer's markets are centrally located in city squares or on green spaces. You can't miss 'em.

Plus, the produce is locally grown and generally better quality than supermarket produce.

And being much simpler to set up and break down than a supermarket, farmer's markets can be tried out in different locations to find the most optimal spot.

Can you tell I'm a believer? =)