New Funding and Expanded Eligibility Requirements for the Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program
FMC’s Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program is now open to newly authorized farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers, in addition to those looking to replace broken or nonfunctional equipment. Through the Equipment Program, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is continuing to partner with the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) to provide eligible farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers with free electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment necessary to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
What’s the Equipment Program?
Through FMC’s program, FNS will cover the costs of purchasing or renting SNAP EBT equipment and services (set-up costs, monthly service fees, and wireless fees) for up to three years. After their application has been approved, eligible farmers and farmers markets will choose their own SNAP EBT service provider from a list of participating companies. Information on the service providers—Dharma, MarketLink, MerchantSource and TSYS—is available online. Transaction fees (for SNAP EBT, credit, and debit payments) are not covered through this program.
SNAP-authorized farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers (who sell at one or more farmers markets) are eligible if they:
A. Do not currently possess functioning EBT equipment; OR
B. Currently possess functioning EBT equipment, but received that equipment before May 2, 2012.
Note that there is no longer a restriction on when the farmers market or direct-marketing farmer became SNAP authorized. Farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers with existing or new SNAP permits will be eligible for free equipment. Based on feedback from participants, FMC has also removed the need for applicants to submit additional paperwork upon approval. Everything FMC requires from applicants is now included in the online application. Learn more about the process by visiting FMC's website, and view the updated application at FMCToolbox.org.
The FMC Equipment Program approved its first applicants in March of 2015, and has approved 284 applicants—182 farmers markets and 102 direct-marketing farmers—for free SNAP EBT Equipment to date. With an increase in funding and the opportunity to serve both newly authorized entities, as well as those with existing SNAP programs, FMC hopes to reach many more markets and farmers in 2016.
FMC is honored to continue to assist USDA FNS in fulfilling their goal of supporting local food systems by expanding access to healthy foods for SNAP participants. FMC Executive Director Jen Cheek said, “SNAP redemptions at farmers markets have risen over the past five years, but they still represent an extremely small percentage of total SNAP benefits spent. Getting SNAP EBT equipment into the hands of markets and farmers is the first step in building a support system that will get more fresh, locally farmed food to the low-income Americans who need it most.”