Project: Foodstamps and Farmers' Markets Project: Foodstamps and Farmers' Markets

Project: Foodstamps and Farmers' Markets

March 16, 2010

Help devise a system for using food stamps to buy better produce.

We all can agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of good health. Yet access to fresh produce remains an enormous challenge. For people on food stamps, it’s an especially difficult one as there are few supermarkets in low income neighborhoods with sufficient offerings. Even thought more farmers’ markets are springing up across the country—and more than 750 farmers’ markets nationwide accept food stamps—other challenges remain.

Foodstamps, of course, are no longer physical stamps but “electronic benefit transfer” cards (or EBTs). This has helped remove the stigma for recipients of aid—and makes shopping at supermarkets easier—but has left farmers’ markets in a tough spot: without a battery-powered wireless card reader, food-stamp recipients can't use their EBT cards. The lack of this simple machine is keeping people from buying fresh food. Many farmers are unable to afford the cost of the equipment (about $1,100 per reader) required to accept the debit cards; others feel the paperwork and record keeping is onerous.

Some (but not all) states have agreed to fund programs to facilitate the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets. Vendors can use hand-held devices, and in some cases cell phones, to process transactions. Other markets, like San Francisco’s Alemany Market, allow EBT card users to exchange their credit for market-specific tokens that can be used at individual booths, but the extra step required has resulted in a drop off in use of food stamps at farmers’ markets.

All of which begs the question: how can we make food stamps easier to use and to accept at farmers’ markets?

Make it easy to use and accept food stamps at farmers’ markets.

Invent a low cost, easy to implement solution. Is it an app? Centralized check-out? Delivery? Something totally low tech? Barter? Trade? Let us know.

Post a comment, tweet @GOOD, or e-mail projects[at]goodinc[dot]com with your solution to the problem of how to accept food stamps at farmers' markets. Your response can take the form of a sentence, a paragraph, a sketch, an annotated photo—whatever you think will best convey your idea. Deadline is Monday, March 29. UPDATE: You can also submit ideas via our project page on ChallengePost.

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Project: Foodstamps and Farmers' Markets