Food Stamp Spending at Farmers Markets Is up 600% Since 2008
Farmers markets have a reputation in some parts of the country as an affluent affectation, but some new statistics show that that, thankfully, isn't really the case.
Since 2008, when President Obama took office, the United States Department of Agriculture has made increasing low-income use of farmers markets and farm stands a priority. They’ve primarily done that through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), better (and no longer really accurately) known as food stamps.
The first push was to increase the number of small vendors at farmers markets and farmstands that actually accept SNAP payments. That’s easier said than done; to accomplish the goal, the USDA had to provide, free of charge, thousands of machines capable of reading EBTs, or electronic benefit transfers. But after providing the machines through grants, the USDA was able to increase the number of farmers market vendors and farm stands that can accept SNAP by more than eight times, from 753 in 2008 to over 6,400 today.
Making it easier for people to use SNAP to buy produce and other goods has had just the desired effect: Redemptions at farmers markets and farm stands totaled $18.8 million in the fiscal year 2014, almost six times as much as was spent in 2008. And (sort of obvious) studies have shown that providing access to high-quality produce has a beneficial impact on the health of people in the area. It’s a pretty impressive achievement. You can read more about it here.