MOUNT VERNON — Last year, the Mount Vernon Farmers’ Market succeeded in arranging for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients to use benefits at the market.
Now that is endangered, because the company which provides the software for farmers markets to do this, will cease operations.
OSU Extension Educator Sabrina Schirtzinger, who works with the Farmers’ Market, explained that the market received a grant last year to obtain the equipment and software to process SNAP purchases, but a primary vendor that services farmers markets, NovoDia, will cease operations.
“We were originally told we would be unable to accept SNAP after July 31, but apparently NovoDia extended that until the end of August,” Schirtzinger said.
That may have been at least partly in response to a letter U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and 11 other senators sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the USDA to make sure SNAP recipients don’t lose access to healthy and local fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods available at farmers markets.
It also represents a significant loss to the vendors as in 2017, over 7,300 farmers and markets accepted SNAP, resulting in $22 million dollars in purchases.
Schirtzinger said that last month alone, SNAP benefits were used to make $567 in purchases, and last year the total was over $7,000. Part of that was in “Produce Perks,” which increases the value of SNAP benefits when buying fruits and vegetables.
“Our problem is that we need to come up with the money to buy the machine to read the SNAP cards. The vendor fees go to pay the market coordinator (who, ironically, handles the SNAP reader), so the market doesn’t have extra money. We have to find a funding source by the end of August,” Schirtzinger said.
“Providing the ability for SNAP participants to purchase food at farmers markets is a win-win. Not only does this provide critical access to healthy, local fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods, it also helps family farmers to develop important local markets and expand business opportunities,” the senators said in their letter.