Beginning in June 2010, the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market followed the example of the Abington Farmers Market and the suggestions of a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist and began accepting credit, debit and SNAP cards. SNAP – Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program – is the replacement program for food stamps and provides the benefits via a “swipeable” card.
An “Electronics Benefits Transfer” or EBT Machine at the market accepts all three types of cards and customers receive $1 or $5 wooden tokens to spend at the market. The market also matches the funds of customers with SNAP cards for purchases up to $10 per visit. All purchases must follow the guidelines of the SNAP program. And, although the tokens are usable only at the Harrisonburg market, they do not have expiration dates and can be used in the upcoming seasons.
The new program seems to be a hit with the farmers, the customers and the general public. The Daily News Record quoted one mother who claimed that the program was the only way she could provide fresh produce to her family. Another SNAP mother who is already a market customer noted that the $10 bonus stretched her food budget. She also emphasized that the money spent was done so locally. Even a comment to the story done by local television WHSV was positive, praising the market for making healthy food available to everyone.
Farmers are happy to have the money from customers who don’t normally shop with cash for their groceries for whatever reason. This would include those of us who routinely rely on our debit cards instead of cash.
All said, the program seems to be a community success!