WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $4 million for state agencies to expand wireless technology at farmers’ markets, Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced here on Wednesday.
The technology is intended to give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants better access to fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets.
"Our country's 7,100 operating farmers markets offer opportunities to our children and their families to access healthy food across the country," Merrigan said in a press release. "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."
Redeeming SNAP benefits through the Electronic Benefit Transfer system has been been problematic in the past, according to USDA. With this funding from the 2012 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, states will now be able to provide wireless equipment to farmers’ markets not currently participating in SNAP with this funding.
SNAP purchases at farmers markets have risen drastically in recent years. USDA reports a 400% increase in SNAP expenditures since 2008, with 1,548 farmers markets using EBT for SNAP.
The agency said its Food and Nutrition Service will soon be soliciting public input on how to best use similar funds in the future.