USDA Funds Card Readers for Food Stamps at Farmers Markets

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $4 million to equip 4,000 farmers markets nationwide with a wireless point of sale devices so that they can accept benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Formerly known as food stamps, the SNAP program provides funds on prepaid cards to help needy people buy food. The cards are restricted so that they are only accepted for food items. The USDA wants to support famers and fight obesity by encouraging spending on fresh produce at the markets.

Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, said she hopes these grants will bring another 4,000 of those outlets on line with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“SNAP participation at farmers markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers — a win-win for agriculture and local communities,” she said in a statement.

Farmers markets have traditionally been cash based, but the Department of Agriculture, like other agencies wants to reduce the use of paper in its programs to save on printing and delivery costs and hassles. Additionally, Government Accounting Office report found that delivering nutrition assistance benefits via cards reduced fraud.

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