The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that provides low-income people with a monthly benefit for food. It’s similar to what was once known as food stamps, but the funds are distributed through electronic cards.
Many farmers markets now accept SNAP, but research shows that participation is low. Of the nearly $2.5 billion dollars in SNAP funds spent annually in North Carolina, only 0.004% are redeemed at farmers markets.
ASAP is working to change that with a USDA grant designed to increase SNAP participation at markets in three Western North Carolina counties. The project has three main goals: to create a SNAP-at-market outreach campaign, to support farmers as they make SNAP more accessible to customers, and to engage community organizations that work directly with SNAP users.
Health and social services departments and faith-based organizations can identify barriers that prevent low income individuals from shopping at tailgate markets and propose community-driven solutions.They can explain how the program works and provide practical information, like the location and hours of the markets, what products are available, and how the transactions work.
This pilot program in three Western North Carolina counties aims to increase SNAP participation at farmers markets over the next three years. The goal is to develop a model that can be expanded to other communities.
Find more information about SNAP at farmers markets at www.asapconnections.org