Part of NOFA-VT’s mission is to make local and organic food accessible to all Vermonters, regardless of income. We pursue this goal in a number of ways, including our Vermont Farm Share Program, working to get more local food into Vermont’s schools and institutions, and by helping farmers’ markets acquire card readers that can accept 3SquaresVT (aka food stamps).
This year, there are 45 market sites that can swipe customers’ Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to access their 3SquaresVT benefits, generally in the form of wooden tokens that can be spent at the market. These tokens can be spent on any item that qualifies for 3SquaresVT benefits, including fresh vegetables, meat, eggs, and even seedlings for home gardens. In 2012, markets did almost $70,000 in 3SquaresVT/EBT sales.
To help Vermonters stretch their food budget and encourage new customers to try out the market, most markets that welcome 3SquaresVT via EBT cards will also be offering “Harvest Health” coupons beginning in July. For every dollar EBT customers spend at the market, they will receive a dollar match in coupons up to $10 per market day. This year’s Harvest Health incentive project is funded by the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Vermont Legislature through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, along with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the Wholesome Wave Foundation.
Seven years ago, no markets accepted EBT cards. This year over half of all markets in the state are welcoming the benefits (visit NOFA-VT’s farmers’ market listing to find one near you).
The work to expand EBT at farmers’ markets has been a collaborative effort with our partners at the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Hunger Free Vermont, UVM Extension, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, providing funding, technical assistance and outreach support to farmers’ markets that accept EBT cards.