The Texas Center for Local Food, a nonprofit dedicated to developing healthy local foods, has a message for families receiving food assistance: Spend it at your local farmer’s market.
According to a statement, the group has launched a new project to promote the use of SNAP benefits in Texas farmers’ markets, through a one-year grant of $ 439,951 from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, using of funds allocated to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, under the Farm Bill. Hoo boy, that’s a lot of groups with all caps.
SNAP is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which provides food assistance to low-income households.
Based on 2019-20 figures, over $ 400 million in SNAP payments are made in Texas each month, with an average of 12.4% or 1.6 million Texans receiving benefits.
SNAP benefit recipients are allowed to use their SNAP cards to purchase fresh, local food at farmers’ markets. But there are obstacles that stand in the way:
No. 1: Many SNAP beneficiaries do not know that they can use their SNAP cards in farmers’ markets.
According to 2020 statistics from the Texas Center for Local Food, Texas ranked 47th out of 50 states for SNAP sales at farmers’ markets.
“Farmers’ markets are a vital link in the local food system, and low-income families have access to fresh, local food – but too many people still don’t know it! Says Sue Beckwith, executive director of the Texas Center for Local Food. “Our new project will get more fresh Texas-grown produce on the tables of SNAP recipients.”
No. 2: Farmers’ markets face multiple barriers to accepting SNAP.
For starters, farmers’ markets need help setting up and using equipment for SNAP processing, says Susie Marshall, executive director of Grow North Texas, a partner in the SNAP-ED project.
“The equipment required to process SNAP is different from normal card processing equipment. It requires its own setup and specialized training, ”says Marshall. His group provides technical assistance to help farmers markets adopt and use the equipment.
Another barrier for farmers’ markets that accept SNAP is the cost of equipment and processing. But the Texas Center for Local Food can help offset those costs. To find out how or to become a member, visit TexasLocalFood.org/Join us.
Based in Elgin, Texas, the Texas Center for Local Food was established in 2016 by smallholder farmers and ranchers to strengthen the economic viability of communities and family farms in Texas by strengthening the local food system economically.