Shoppers who use the benefits they receive under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to purchase food may not know that they can also use those dollars at community farmers’ markets to buy locally grown fresh produce without breaking the bank.
But how does it work exactly?
Here’s an overview of how the deal works, how to find a farmers market near you, and tips to get your SNAP dollars going even further.
What can you buy with SNAP benefits?
The following list comes from United States Department of Agriculture eligibility criteria:
Fruits and vegetables
Meat, poultry and fish
Breads and cereals
Other foods, such as snacks and soft drinks
Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household
What can’t you buy with SNAP benefits?
According to the USDA, households cannot use SNAP benefits to purchase:
Beer, wine, alcohol, cigarettes or tobacco
Vitamins, medicines and supplements. If an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase
Live animals (except crustaceans, fish taken out of the water and animals slaughtered before collection at the store)
All non-food items, such as pet food, cleaning products, paper products and other household items, hygiene items and cosmetics
According to the National Council on Aging, which has developed its own guide for senior shoppers, a good rule of thumb is to remove all non-food items, as well as non-people foods (like pet food), from your SNAP shopping list.
That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, nut, soy, and oat milk are permitted dairy alternatives, and gluten-free pasta falls into the bread and cereal category. You can even buy 100% applesauce (considered a fruit), eggs (poultry), or canned ravioli with tomato sauce (vegetable), according to the NCOA.
How to Use Your SNAP Benefits/EBT Card at a Farmers Market
If you’re a SNAP recipient, that’s where your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card comes in. For those unaware, it’s the card recipients use at the point of sale to access their SNAP benefits.
According to the National Farmers’ Market Coalition – a non-profit trade and advocacy group – markets must be cleared by the Food and Nutrition Service within the USDA to accept EBT SNAP benefits.
The way it works, as described by the FMC, is that SNAP users redeem their benefits by swiping their EBT card at an outlet in the market to redeem tokens or a paper receipt, which they then use to purchase eligible items from sellers.
If you’re running a community farmers’ market and want to get licensed to accept these federal benefits, the CMF has a step-by-step guide.
How to Make Your SNAP Perks Go Further at Farmers Markets
The Double Kentucky Dollars program, made possible through a partnership with Bluegrass Farm to Table and Community Farm Alliance, allows buyers to double their federal food and nutrition benefits at select farmers markets.
This video from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment offers a useful guide.
Which farmers markets in and around Lexington accept SNAP/EBT?
- the Lexington Farmer’s Market is an unavoidable option. More information is available on their website.
- Kentucky Black Earthwhich strives to reconnect black Kentuckians to their heritage and farming heritage, opens its season in late May and accepts EBT.
- Elmwood Cattle Farm in Scott County accepts EBT. You can buy organic eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables on site or order online for pickup at Lexington Farmers Market. Elmwood also offers direct-to-home delivery, which means you don’t even have to leave your home to shop locally.
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