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Increasing Access to EBT at Farmers’ Markets

The Riverfront Farmers’ Market in downtown Wilmington is helping to make healthy food access a snap. Since becoming a member of the statewide North Carolina 21st Century Farmers’ Markets program, the market is now set up to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). The SNAP program, also known as food stamps, is referred to in North Carolina as the Food and Nutrition Services Program.

Accepting SNAP EBT at the Riverfront Farmers’ Market increases the availability of fruits and vegetables for low-income individuals across Wilmington.

“I don’t understand why every farmers’ market wouldn’t apply. There is no expense to it... Leaflight offers training, technical assistance, even tokens for each market,” says R.T. Jones, the Riverfront Farmers’ Market Manager. This program “opened up an additional form of revenue to farmers and increased the fruit and vegetable consumption for the low-income population.”

Initially, some of the farmers had concerns about how they would get paid, but more and more vendors joined as they saw how easy and successful the program was. “We are really happy to be involved,” says Mr. Jones of the Riverfront Farmers’ Market’s involvement in the 21st Century Farmers’ Markets program. The Riverfront Farmers’ Market is also a member of the Feast Down East sustainable food coalition.

Leaflight is a ten year old educational, scientific and charitable 501(c)3 North Carolina non-profit corporation. The Leaflight’s services include research, education, planning and policy for local, regional, state and federal agencies, non-profits, businesses and citizens. Since inception, Leaflight’s major focus has been food systems. Leaflight is enhancing local, regional, state and national food security through systematic and programmatic projects.

21st Century Farmers’ Markets Program
Leaflight administers the 21st Century Farmers’ Markets program in cooperation with a variety of partners. The 21st Century Farmers’ Markets program implements the USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for NC’s agricultural direct farm-to-market retailers. These retailers include farmers’ markets, tailgate markets, mobile mini-markets, delivery routes, farmer cooperatives and Certified Roadside Farm Stands. Program services include enrollment, training, promotion and administration.

Since 2009, Leaflight has helped 34 markets obtain USDA permits, equipment, supplies, training and financial support, transacting more than $1 million on behalf of NC farms and farmers’ markets.


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