Using Food Stamps at Farmers Markets

SNAP farmers market benefits are available to households who qualify to receive food stamps for purchasing eligible grocery items. This means you can get seasonal produce at farmers markets.

With an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, members of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may use their benefits to purchase eligible food items from grocery stores or farmers markets. With these EBT farmers market benefits, families can purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables while staying within their food budget.

Moreover, Double Up Food Bucks programs are available in many states throughout the U.S. Currently, 24 states participate in the program, including California, Texas, New York and Michigan. Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Programs (SFMNP) are also available all over the country and serve the same purpose. With help from programs such as these, low-income families can stretch their food dollars while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. While these programs vary by state, most provide SNAP beneficiaries with double the amount of fruits and vegetables at no extra charge. To learn more about using food stamps to shop at farmers markets, review the information below

How to Use Farmers Market Food Stamps to Purchase Fresh Produce

The farmers market EBT program is available to all SNAP beneficiaries who wish to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for their households. As part of this program, households who receive food stamps may use their EBT cards to purchase eligible produce items from farmers markets, farmer-producers (or farmers that grow and sell their own products), community supported agricultures (CSAs) or grocery stores and retailers. If SNAP beneficiaries join a CSA, they typically receive an assortment of fruits and vegetables during the harvest season.

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If households use their SNAP farmers market benefits to purchase produce from a CSA, however, they may not use their food stamps to pay for any membership or administrative fees. In most cases, members need to pay an annual or seasonal fee if they wish to join a CSA, but they must pay this membership fee with cash or a non-EBT credit or debit card. Additionally, customers may not pay for their CSA foods more than 14 days before the food becomes available for delivery or pick-up. Generally, CSA shares become available once per week, every other week, or once per month.

Moreover, customers who use food stamps at farmers markets may keep the following tips in mind, as doing so will help them to save money when purchasing fresh produce:

  • Plan meals before heading to the farmers market, as meal planning helps households to cut costs and reduce food waste
  • Make a grocery list before heading to the farmers market, but keep an open mind in case other items are cheaper or on sale
  • Walk around the entire farmers market before making a purchase, as prices will vary by vendor
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and freeze any items that will not be consumed immediately
  • Look for free nutrition classes and food demons
  • Enjoy free food samples for a light afternoon snack

What is the Double Up Food Bucks program?

The Double Up Food program began in Michigan in 2009 as the first healthy food incentive for qualifying SNAP beneficiaries. By 2018, 24 states began participating in the program, including the following: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. However, current Double Up programs in New York are only available in the western part of the state, and Asheville is the only city in North Carolina that participates at this time. In Hawaii, these programs are only available in Big Island and the island of Moloka’i.

While each of these Double Up farmers market programs varies by state, most provide SNAP beneficiaries with double the amount of produce at no additional charge, as long as they make the purchase using their EBT card. For instance, several state-specific programs include:

  • In Texas, SNAP beneficiaries simply need to use their SNAP Lone Star card to purchase fruits and vegetables from participating farmers markets. For each dollar they spend, shoppers receive $1 in food bucks (up to $20 per day).
  • In California, members of this farmers market SNAP program simply need to use their CalFresh card to purchase fresh produce from participating grocery stores and farmers markets. For each dollar that shoppers spend, they receive $1 in food bucks (up to $10 per day).
  • In Michigan, customers can use their Bridge Card to purchase SNAP-eligible foods from participating farmers markets or grocery stores. Then, they receive an extra dollar for every dollar they spend on eligible items (up to $20 per day).
  • In Missouri and Kansas, SNAP beneficiaries can use their EBT cards to earn $1 for every dollar they spend on fresh produce (up to $25 per day).

Currently, more than 560 farmers markets and 260 grocery stores participate in this healthy food initiative for low-income households. To learn more about these Double Up Food Bucks programs, food stamp recipients may contact their caseworker or the office that oversees their state’s SNAP program. Food Stamp recipients can also learn more about creating balanced meals with their benefits, here.

How can I locate a SNAP farmers market that accepts EBT cards?

SNAP beneficiaries can locate EBT farmers markets in several different ways. First, customers may visit their local farmers market to look for EBT/SNAP signs, posters or displays. If vendors are authorized to accept EBT cards as payment, they may order signs or posters directly through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In some cases, farmers and vendors may wear an EBT ribbon and/or button as well, as this shows that they accept SNAP benefits as payment.

Additionally, customers may locate SNAP farmers markets by using the Retailer Locator tool under the USDA’s website. To use the tool, shoppers simply need to provide a starting address to find participating farmers markets in their area. As another option, SNAP recipients may download a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet from the USDA’s website, as this spreadsheet contains a full list of participating grocery stores and farmers markets in each state. To learn more about how to locate participating markets, click here.

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