July 26, 2018 – Farmers Market Fund announced that SNAP recipients will not be turned away when shopping at Oregon farmers markets. While closure of a widely-used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) processor threatens operations, the farmers market community will receive help from Oregon Food Bank to cover costs of the transition.
Serving low income community members is a labor of love for farmers markets. Processing SNAP benefits comes with federal restrictions that demand meticulous record-keeping and out-of-pocket costs for equipment and processing fees. Recently, Novo Dia Group, a financial transaction processor contracted with 1,700 farmers markets around the nation, made national news when they announced their closure as of August 31. This leaves 20 Oregon farmers markets scrambling for a speedy replacement in order to avoid turning SNAP shoppers away.
“Hundreds of Forest Grove residents rely on our farmers market each week to purchase their fresh produce and other locally produced food. Our farmers and small business owners depend on that income. Losing the opportunity to process SNAP purchases would hurt our whole community,” says, Kaely Summers, Market Manager, Forest Grove Farmers Market.
Solutions exist – but they will have costs for farmers markets. Farmers Market Fund and Oregon Farmers Market Association have identified a list of processing companies, their set-up, per use and monthly processing fees. Additionally, capital costs for hardware can run up to $900 per unit.
Since alternatives are needed quickly and farmers markets are low budget operations, Oregon Food Bank has stepped-in to help. Oregon Food Bank has committed up to $10,000 to the Farmers Market Fund to assist individual markets in determining needs, purchasing hardware and paying fees for their new SNAP processing contracts.
“Oregon Food Bank believes that no one should be hungry and that everyone deserves healthy, fresh food in order to thrive,” said Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan. “These core organizational values made the decision to support SNAP access at local farmers markets very straightforward. Farmers markets help strengthen local food systems and bring our wonderfully varied communities together – these are critical avenues to addressing hunger at its root causes.”
“We are so grateful to Oregon Food Bank for this contribution. While we were ready to help with technical assistance, having the funds to cover expenses for each market eases the burden immensely and keeps federal funds flowing in Oregon’s economy,” says Trudy Toliver, Executive Director, Farmers Market Fund.
There are 130 farmers markets in Oregon; 70 of them also offer extra cash to low income shoppers using their SNAP/Oregon Trail cards. Most offer a dollar for dollar match up to $10, which boosts the buying power for low income households, enabling shoppers to buy more local fruits and vegetables.
“Nearly all SNAP shoppers at farmers markets tell us how important the program has been for them to eat more nutritious foods. That’s why it’s so important for us to help markets continue accepting SNAP without interruption,” says Molly Notarianni, Program Director, Farmers Market Fund.
In the next few weeks, Farmers Market Fund will partner with Oregon Farmers Market Association to assure that each market impacted by the Novo Dia closure is identified and will get the help they need.
“Everyone’s goal is to make sure there is no break in service at any market for any SNAP customers, and this contribution will help make that goal achievable,” says Kelly Crane, Program Director, Oregon Farmers Markets Association. “We are really inspired by the way that the farmers market community and food system partners have all come together to find a fix for this situation.”
In terms of what SNAP shoppers should expect, they might notice a different processing system at their community’s market, but their SNAP/Oregon Trail cards will continue to be accepted. Shoppers who want to see which markets accept SNAP should visit these websites for market locations and services: ((https://oregonhunger.org/farmers-markets-snap)) ((https://farmersmarketfund.org/programs/dufb/participatingmarkets)).
Markets that are affected by the Novo Dia shutdown and need funds to transition to new SNAP software and equipment should contact Farmers Market Fund for assistance. Foundations, local businesses and community members who want to help are welcome to contribute to a dedicated fund at Farmers Market Fund for a tax-deductible receipt.