TALLAHASSEE — July 27, 2012 -
Farmers markets across Florida can begin applying for free equipment that will allow them to handle purchases through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card, which is used by those who receive temporary federal benefits including food and cash assistance.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently gave the Florida Department of Children and Families $78,749 to help an estimated 100 local farmers markets begin accepting EBT cards.
“This funding will help local small businesses across this state increase their customer base and their revenues,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “More importantly, this grant gives us the opportunity to provide better options for healthy food to many children and families in Florida.”
Farmers markets, which do not always have access to phone lines or electricity, have had difficulty redeeming food assistance benefits through the EBT system. As a result of this funding, Florida is providing wireless equipment to multi-stall farmers markets who are not already accepting EBT cards. There will be no monthly transaction fees for food assistance transactions, and the farmers markets can choose to use the equipment to also process regular debit and credit card transactions, although fees would be charged in those instances.
This grant is part of $4 million in funding nationwide to encourage farmers’ markets to make EBT transactions available. Nationwide, there are currently more than 1,500 farmers markets using EBT technology. Since 2008, food assistance expenditures at farmers markets have risen by 400 percent.
The USDA National Farmers Market Directory lists farmers markets that accept EBT and other federal nutrition programs. The directory, available at http://farmersmarkets.usda.gov, is an easy-to-use tool that allows users to search for markets based on location, available products and types of payment accepted. There is information on 203 Florida farmers’ markets available at this site.
Farmers markets interested in signing up for the program must first apply to the USDA to be an authorized retailer at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/fm.htm or by calling (877) 823-4369. Once a market is an authorized retailer, the market will be contacted directly to receive the free equipment.