This blog was written by Rachel Floyd, Vermont Foodbank VISTA/Americore 3SquaresVT Outreach Coordinator
I love farmers markets and I am on “food stamps.”
In fact, I love spending my SNAP dollars (food stamps) at the farmers market. Farmers markets are great places to get food that hasn’t traveled far, is fresh and nutritionally dense, and supports the local economy. There are a ton of great reasons to shop at farmers markets, but for many low income folks, it can feel hard to participate in this part of the economy.
In the last few years, more and more farmers markets have started accepting SNAP dollars, which are loaded onto EBT cards, formerly called the food stamp program. And while this is crucial in the role of creating more access to high quality food, not many people on SNAP are utilizing this.
I get it.
Farmers markets are sometimes seen as a bougie, yuppie, upper crust place to stop on a Saturday morning. There is a specific set of barriers that low income folks face when it comes to thinking about utilizing the farmers market. Even if SNAP is accepted there, that’s not the end-all, be-all solution to healthy food access. There are a lot of reasons that a low income person might not go to the farmers market, some I’m aware of and some I’m not. My views are based on my experiences from growing up middle class in a farming community, living at/near the poverty line for 5+ years as an adult, and working in foodbanking for 3 years.
The following is a tutorial on how to use your SNAP/EBT/Food stamps at the farmer’s market considering some of those other barriers faced by other low income folks (some like myself, others with very different lives than me.) This blog is not comprehensive and does not address issues such as transportation or limited hours of some markets.
Decide to go. This is the hardest step to overcome (if you can find transportation to get there.) I’ve been to a lot of farmers markets in my life both as a kid and as an adult. It can still be intimidating. New places can be hard to visit, especially alone. Take a friend/partner/child if you feel comfortable. I like to take friends who have also used SNAP at some point because they understand the experience. In larger cities (and even in some small ones) farmers markets have entertainment and fun things to look at even if you don’t spend money. If it will make you feel more comfortable, try to commit yourself just to showing up. Farmers markets are public events in public spaces and everyone is welcome to look around and take up space.
Find a market near you and make sure they accept SNAP. If you are interested in spending your SNAP dollars at the market, try to make sure that whatever market you go to actually does accept SNAP. I just google “my city” + “farmers market” + “SNAP”/”EBT”. Usually you can find their website or facebook page that may or may not have information. Sometimes if I can’t find information this way, I will email or privately message the farmers market and ask directly. “