SNAP Benefits Now Used to Purchase Local Food Directly from Farmers in More than 5,000 Locations

More than $21 Million in SNAP Benefits Used Last Year to Purchase Healthy Food and Boost Local Economies

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2014 – New U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can now purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers through more than 5,000 farmers markets, roadside markets and pick-your-own operations across America.  The number of locations where SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food directly from farmers has increased five times since 2008, when there were just 753 such locations.  Also according to USDA data, SNAP participants are taking advantage of these opportunities, redeeming more than $21 million dollars at farmers’ markets and directly from farmers last year. Providing more places for SNAP participants to purchase food directly from local farmers boosts local economies, supports family farmers and helps create more access to healthy foods for SNAP participants, which can help reduce health problems and governmental health costs in the future.  
“On average, about 20 cents of every SNAP dollar spent on food ends up in the pockets of American farmers. Allowing families in need to buy food directly from local farmers provides a boost to local economies,” USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said.  “America’s farmers offer a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a healthy diet, and USDA has made it a priority to improve direct access between farmers and SNAP participants over the past several years. Healthy eating reduces health risks later in life, which helps reduce our nation’s health costs over the long run.  This new data shows that these efforts are working to provide farmers with a larger customer base and to provide families who use SNAP with more options to buy healthy food.”  
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has been working to expand the availability of wireless point-of-sale equipment to allow more farmers markets to participate in SNAP.  Launched in January 2014, is a one-stop information center where farmers markets and farmers can find out how to participate in SNAP and, if eligible, how to obtain SNAP EBT equipment. Installing wireless technology at farmers markets expands the customer base for markets and increases the share of the SNAP dollar that goes directly back to local farmers, strengthening local economies.
SNAP is one of 15 nutrition assistance programs administered at the federal level by FNS. It’s the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month.  Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, and 42 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.