Published by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) by way of Maryland Market Money This guide is designed to help Maryland farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers operating independent farm stands accept federal nutrition assistance benefits as payments for their products. The specific federal nutrition programs referenced in this guide include: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefits Transfer (SNAP/EBT); Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for fruits and vegetables, Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) for Seniors and WIC participants. This guide also addresses acceptance of credit/debit at the market, and the future of electronic incentives (e-incentives).
GUIDE TO A C C E P T I N G F E D E R A L N U T R I T I ON B E N E F I T S FOR FARMERS MARKETS AND DIRECT-MARKETING FARMS MARYLAND
GUIDE TO A C C E P T I N G F E D E R A L N U T R I T I ON B E N E F I T S FOR FARMERS MARKETS AND DIRECT-MARKETING FARMS MARYLAND
Published by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) by way of Maryland Market Money This guide is designed to help Maryland farmers markets and direct- marketing farmers operating independent farm stands accept federal nutrition assistance benefits as payments for their products. The specific federal nutrition programs referenced in this guide include: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefits Transfer (SNAP/EBT); Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for fruits and vegetables, Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) for Seniors and WIC participants. This guide also addresses acceptance of credit/debit at the market, and the future of electronic incentives (e- incentives).
MARYLAND MARKET MONEY IS A STATEWIDE PROGRAM OF THE SOUTHERN MARYLAND AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (SMADC), A DIVISION OF THE TRI-COUNTY COUNCIL FOR SOUTHERN MARYLAND (TCCSMD)
INTRODUCTION Maryland Market Money (MMM) is a statewide food access program that feeds Marylanders and supports farmers. The Maryland Market Money program, in operation since 2014, is a nutrition incentive program that increases food access at farmers markets and direct-marketing farms (farm stands, on-farm markets, CSAs, etc.) to increase food security and build sustainability for farmers, markets, and communities.
Nutrition Program (FMNP) benefits— at farmers markets and direct marketing farms. In June 2020, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), a division of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, whose mission is to cultivate a dynamic food system that is profitable for farmers and producers, empowering for communities, and environmentally sound, acquired the Maryland Market Money program from the Maryland Farmers Market Association after it closed. Maryland Market Money is supported by partners including the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Maryland Agricultural & Resource Based-Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO), and the Farms and Food Access for a Resilient Maryland (FFARMD) Foundation.
At the same time, the program strengthens Maryland foodways by increasing revenue for farmers selling at farmers markets and direct to consumers. The way the program works is simple: Maryland Market Money removes economic barriers for shoppers experiencing food insecurity, providing a dollar-for- dollar match for purchases made using federal nutrition benefits— SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, eWIC-CVB, and Senior and WIC Farmers Market
This guide was originally written in 2014 by the Maryland Farmers Market Association with the help of the following organizations: Maryland Hunger Solutions, the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services (Mid-Atlantic Region); Crossroads Community Food Network; the Food Research and Action Center; the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future; Maryland Department of Agriculture; Maryland Department of Health; Maryland SNAP-Ed program, and the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP). The Maryland Market Money program gratefully acknowledges the following funders and sponsors: the United States Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Agriculture, the City of Baltimore, the Board of Charles County Commissioners, Prince George’s County Council, Montgomery County Council, FRESHFARM, The Greater Washington Community Foundation, Berkshire Hathaway PG&E, and numerous private supporters and donors. The information provided in this guide is intended to support farmers market managers, direct-marketing farmers, farmers market vendors, and community food access advocates to increase access to healthy, fresh, local foods through Maryland farmers markets and direct-marketing farms for all Marylanders, regardless of income. Additionally, this guide aims to cultivate community at farmers markets and local farms, with the goal of creating a strong network and a vibrant local food system.
06 SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
07 08 11 12 16 19 20 22 24 28 29 32 41 42
WIC CASH VALUE BENEFIT FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
FARMERS MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAM
REGISTERING TO ACCEPT FEDERAL NUTRITION BENEFITS
GRANT PROGRAMS AND EQUIPMENT OPTIONS
VENDOR-LEVEL SYSTEM VS. MARKET-LEVEL SYSTEM
VENDOR-LEVEL SYSTEM FOR SNAP/EBT ACCEPTANCE
MARKET-LEVEL SYSTEM FOR SNAP/EBT ACCEPTANCE
BUDGETING FOR DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS
MATCHING FEDERAL NUTRITION BENEFITS
MARYLAND MARKET MONEY
CONDUCTING SUCCESSFUL OUTREACH
RESOURCE GUIDE AND LINKS
ACRONYMS AND GLOSSARY
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services (USDA FNS). SNAP increases food security for more than 682,000 Maryland residents each month (as of February 2023 data). Households qualify for SNAP benefits based on eligibility Supplemental guidelines, including household size, gross monthly income, and basic household expenses. SNAP recipients receive their monthly benefits on a debit-style Electronic Benefit Transfer (SNAP/EBT) card. In Maryland, this SNAP/EBT card is called the “Independence Card” and can be used to pay for eligible food items from USDA-certified retailers.
What is a “SNAP-eligible” food? Examples of SNAP-eligible items include fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meat, fish, poultry, seeds and plants that produce fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, and frozen foods. Examples of ineligible SNAP items include hot foods, vitamins or medicine, paper products, soap, and alcohol. Learn more at USDA FNS. SNAP acceptance at farmers markets is a practice that strengthens local economies, broadens customer bases for farmers markets and direct-marketing farms, and provides consumers experiencing food insecurity with greater access to fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables, and other foods. SNAP redemption with farmers and at farmers markets has increased steadily since the COVID-19 Pandemic. In response to mounting pandemic-related food insecurity, the USDA temporarily increased SNAP allotments and issued Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). These increases have now ended but consumers may still have unspent balances to shop with. P-EBT was issued to help families purchase food while schools were closed due to COVID-19. Learn more at Maryland DHS.
WIC CASH VALUE BENEFIT FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES The Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is available to women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or recently gave birth; infants; and children up to the age of five who live in Maryland, have a nutritional need, and meet income eligibility guidelines. The USDA funds the WIC program, which in Maryland is administered by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH). The WIC program provides participants with nutrition education and electronic benefits for the purchase of supplemental foods, such as milk, eggs, cereal, formula, fruits, and vegetables and is usually redeemed at grocery stores. The WIC Cash Value Benefit for fruits and vegetables (WIC-CVB) is the only WIC benefit that can be used at both grocery stores and farmers markets, directly with authorized farmers. WIC-CVB benefits are issued per month, per participant and are issued on an eWIC electronics benefit card. Multiple family members in a household can potentially receive benefits simultaneously.
$24 for child participants $43 for pregnant and post-partum participants $47 for fully and partially breastfeeding participants The Fiscal Year 2023 WIC-CVB allotments are:
For farmers to accept this benefit, one of two eWIC processing equipment options is needed. Both are smart device applications available for download in your mobile app store:
Solutran S3 MerchantLink app
*As of May 2023, the eWIC processing capability is only available to iOS users, but an Android enhancement is forthcoming soon.
Learn more from the State of Maryland webpage for WIC Farmers. You may also view participating farmers currently accepting eWIC. For more information, contact: Terri Buckler email@example.com (410) 767-5722
FARMERS MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAM
The Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides checks for WIC and Senior participants to purchase fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables from June through November. This Farmers Market program expands the awareness of the variety of local fruits and vegetables that can be found at farmers markets and has the potential to increase farmer sales. There are two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs available for farmers to participate in: The Farmers Market Nutrition Program for WIC (FMNP- WIC) and Seniors (SFMNP). Farmers must apply to be authorized through an application on the Maryland OneStop website.
For more information, contact: MDA FMNP Program (410) 841-5700
FMNP WIC CHECKS The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC-FMNP) is available to WIC participants. FMNP is a federally funded program administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH). The WIC-FMNP program was established to provide fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and to expand healthy food access to fresh produce at farmers markets. Participants receive $30 in $5 checks, which are distributed between June and September to WIC participants through local WIC clinics. Checks must be redeemed with authorized farmers each year by the end of November.
FMNP SENIOR CHECKS The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is available to Seniors over the age of 60 who meet income eligibility guidelines. SFMNP is a federally funded program administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Aging (MDoA) and local agencies on aging. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program aims to provide fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits, vegetables, cut herbs, and honey from farmers markets and roadside stands to seniors with low income. Income- eligible senior citizens receive $50 worth of $5 checks, which are distributed between July and September to Senior participants through local senior centers. Checks must be redeemed with authorized farmers each year by the end of November.
PRODUCT ELIGIBILITY GUIDE
WHAT PRODUCTS ARE ELIGIBLE FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
SNAP/EBT WIC CVB SFMNP WIC FMNP MMM
MEAT, EGGS, AND DAIRY
FOOD-BEARING PLANTS AND SEEDS
PRE-PACKAGED NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
BREAD, PASTRIES, AND BAKED GOODS JAMS, JELLIES, AND PRESERVES
HOT PREPARED FOODS
REGISTERING TO ACCEPT FEDERAL NUTRITION BENEFITS
Because SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, WIC-CVB, and FMNP (WIC/Senior) are federally funded and regulated programs, farmers markets and/or vendors and direct- marketing farmers must apply to the appropriate government agency to accept these forms of payment. SNAP acceptance reauthorization must be completed every five years. This section explains the registration process for each program. As a farmers market, you can confirm whether your farmers are registered in these programs and help them find the necessary paperwork if they need to enroll. Encouraging all eligible farmers at your market to accept these benefits as payment is a best practice and will attract a diverse customer base to your market as well as create an inclusive community space.
USDA SNAP Retailer Authorization To accept SNAP/EBT and P-EBT payments, any retailer must receive authorization through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). For a market- level system, the market can apply to the USDA for SNAP authorization on behalf of all of the vendors. For a vendor-level system or for direct-marketing farmers, each individual vendor/farmer may apply directly to the USDA for their farm or business to receive SNAP retailer authorization. Visit the USDA SNAP webpage to begin the registration process. Before you acquire your SNAP/EBT equipment, you must become a USDA-certified vendor. To get started: Review the following USDA website pages then contact the SNAP Retailer Service Center.
Farmers markets: fns.usda.gov/snap/retailer Farmers market vendors and direct-marketing farmers: fns.usda.gov/snap/farmer-producer
For more information, contact: fns.usda.gov/snap/apply-to-accept 877-823-4369
USDA grant-funded technical assistance with this application is available through MarketLink who can assist farmers markets and farmers in obtaining and applying for a USDA FNS SNAP Authorization even if the market or farmer intends to get SNAP processing equipment from someone other than MarketLink. Learn more at MarketLink.
Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC/Senior)
Program, eligible participants receive checks in dollar- value checks ($5 each) for the purchase of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. Authorized farmers stamp and then deposit these checks directly into their bank accounts. Please note: To accept FMNP, farmers must complete an application on the Maryland OneStop website, an agreement, and be trained to become authorized by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Apply through MDA or OneStop .
While federal funding for the WIC and Senior FMNP, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) administers the program in partnership with USDA provides Maryland Department of Health (MDH) for WIC and Maryland Department of Aging (MDoA) for SFMNP. In Maryland, FMNP distribution to eligible recipients is coordinated by county. WIC FMNP vouchers are typically distributed at WIC clinics or WIC clinic events at farmers markets and community centers while SFMNP vouchers are typically distributed through senior centers. For more information on these programs, including training dates for farmers, visit the Maryland FMNP WIC Farmers page. For more information, contact: MDA FMNP Program (410) 841-5700
WIC Cash Value Benefit for Fruits and Vegetables (WIC-CVB) WIC Cash Value Benefit for Fruits and Vegetables (WIC-CVB) are specifically for the purchase of fruits and vegetables at supermarkets, farmers markets, and approved farm stands. Authorized farmers may accept WIC-CVB via eWIC processing equipment. There are two available mobile applications for use on smart devices to process customers’ WIC-CVB payments: TotilPay Go or S3 Merchant Link. TotilPay Go can process WIC-CVB, SNAP/EBT, MMM e-incentives (if applicable), and debit/credit payments, whereas S3 Merchant Link only processes WIC-CVB. In Maryland, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) administers this USDA-funded program in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). To accept FMNP (WIC/Senior) and WIC-CVB, farmers must be approved by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and complete a free FMNP/WIC-CVB training their first year in the program and then once every three years thereafter. Authorized farmers must indicate to MDH that they would also like to process eWIC transactions either by the S3 Merchant Link app or through TotilPay Go. For additional information, go to the MDH WIC Farmers webpage.
For more information, contact: Terri Buckler firstname.lastname@example.org (410) 767-5722
GRANT PROGRAMS AND EQUIPMENT OPTIONS
Grant Programs There is a nationwide USDA-funded grant program that connects Maryland farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers with free SNAP/EBT equipment to process SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, eWIC, MMM e- incentives (if applicable) and credit/debit transactions. MarketLink, a program of NAFMNP contracted by USDA to provide SNAP/EBT acceptance equipment and technical assistance, offers direct-marketing farmers and farmers markets a "bring your own device" mobile app-based system for accepting SNAP/EBT, eWIC, credit/debit, and MMM e-incentives. MarketLink provides a free one-year subscription to TotilPay Go, a mobile app-based SNAP/EBT processing platform and costs $19.95/month or $191.40/year (20% savings vs month- to-month) after that. There are never any per-transaction fees for SNAP/EBT, eWIC, or e-incentives sales, but there are fees for credit/debit, which can be processed through Square or Worldpay. The MarketLink program offers extensive technical assistance, including with the USDA SNAP Retailer Authorization application. Learn more at MarketLink. Note: Those who do not qualify for MarketLink's free equipment program have the option to lease MarketLink's app-based equipment and enjoy MarketLink's no per- transaction fees for SNAP/EBT sales and other nationally negotiated benefits.
SNAP/EBT Equipment Options To spend their benefits, a SNAP recipient swipes their SNAP/EBT card on a SNAP-authorized retailer’s Point-Of-Sale (POS) device. A POS can be obtained in multiple ways. As an authorized SNAP retailer, you have the option of obtaining your equipment through available grants which can offset the cost for you, or you can choose to procure a POS through the merchant services department of your bank or other companies that sell POS equipment. Make sure if you choose to obtain your equipment outside of the available grant opportunities, that the POS device option you choose is already enabled to accept SNAP/EBT transactions. Online SNAP for Farmers Markets and Direct-Marketing Farmers MarketLink has also been contracted by USDA to pilot an online SNAP acceptance platform. As of the date of publication of this guide, MarketLink is in the final testing phase with USDA FNS’s Online Purchasing Pilot. Online SNAP acceptance will be available through the eCommerce platform GrownBy. The MarketLink and GrownBy teams will provide technical assistance in getting set up and similar to the mobile SNAP equipment grant funded by USDA, the online SNAP grant will cover one year of the processing and eCommerce platform fees. Learn more at Marketlink.
VENDOR-LEVEL SYSTEM VS. MARKET-LEVEL SYSTEM
Currently, there are two options available for farmers markets that wish to accept SNAP/EBT. One option is a vendor-level system in which each vendor operates their own equipment to accept SNAP/EBT (and credit/debit) directly from customers. The second option is a market-level system in which SNAP/EBT, (and sometimes credit/debit cards) are accepted through one central machine that functions as a market bank; market staff swipes the shopper's SNAP/EBT card and provides the shopper with dollar-value tokens that are spent directly with the vendors. Please note: Direct-marketing farmers operating independent farm stands must use their own vendor-level type system.
Vendor-Level System One set of SNAP/EBT equipment per individual vendor
Market-Level System One set of SNAP/EBT equipment for entire market
Participating vendors must have their own bank account; funds are directly deposited from processor. A high level of SNAP-eligible foods being sold at market. The willingness of vendors to acquire their own SNAP/EBT equipment from a merchant services provider/processor. Strong vendor buy-in and commitment to operate the program weekly. Market staff capacity for technical assistance and vendor support. Existing or potential customer base of federal nutrition benefits participants. Ability for each individual vendor to offset any fees associated with use of equipment or transactions. Budget for signage and outreach materials to let SNAP/EBT shoppers know which vendors accept the benefit. Participating vendors will be provided signage by USDA- FNS. Completed USDA SNAP-Authorized Retailer Certification for each vendor.
Market needs a central bank account that can be used for the market as a whole.
A high level of SNAP-eligible foods being sold at market. The willingness of vendors to accept tokens and reimbursement from a central market bank account. Staff capacity to operate the central machine throughout duration of each week’s market, collect and count tokens after market, and issue reimbursements to vendors. Existing or potential customer base of federal nutrition benefits participants. Funds/potential to acquire funds to offset any fees associated with use of equipment or transactions . Program budget for tokens, printed marketing, outreach materials, vendor training materials. Participating markets will be provided signage by USDA-FNS.
Completed USDA SNAP-Authorized Retailer Certification on behalf of market.
Customers go directly to the vendor from whom they wish to make purchases with their SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, eWIC or debit/credit card. Encourage vendors with snap-eligible foods to advertise their ability to accept benefits with large, easy-to-read, colorful signs to attract customers. USDA provides signage to authorized merchants. The customer selects desired items from vendor, which must be SNAP- eligible items if paid for with a SNAP/EBT/P-EBT card. Vendors and farmers market staff should be familiar with which items are SNAP-eligible and which items are not. For a list of SNAP-eligible items, consult page 11 of this guide.
The vendor swipes the customer’s SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, eWIC, or credit/debit card after entering the amount of the customer’s purchase. Because the USDA makes deposits to Independence or SNAP/EBT cards in Maryland from the 4th-23rd of each month, you should expect to see more SNAP/EBT transactions during the middle of the month. The vendor processes the customer’s transaction and sends or hands the customer a receipt. Vendors who acquired their SNAP equipment from MarketLink get a printer waiver from the USDA and are not required to give shoppers a printed receipt. Instead, they email or text receipts to shoppers through the app. If vendors are using another type of POS equipment for SNAP/EBT, they must provide shoppers with a printed receipt. Vendor receives payment, which is wirelessly transmitted into their bank account usually within 48 business hours.
Vendor-Level System for SNAP/EBT Acceptance Checklist Using a vendor-level system allows each individual vendor to accept SNAP/ EBT/P-EBT and credit/ debit payments, and MMM e-incentives where available, directly from customers.
A bank account. (Required) Individual vendors must have a bank account. Sales will be wirelessly transferred to the account within 48 business hours of the transactions. A completed application for USDA SNAP authorization. (Required) Each vendor must complete the USDA’s e-Authentication Account Registration and then apply to be a SNAP-authorized retailer. At the end of the application, the vendor will receive an identification number from the USDA Food Nutrition Services (FNS). Refer to page 12 of this guide for more information. Vendors cannot receive equipment to participate in the vendor-level market system without first completing this process. Budgeting for direct and indirect costs. Each vendor is responsible for transaction fees for any SNAP/EBT, credit/debit transactions that they process. Through Market Link, there are no per-transaction SNAP/EBT processing fees ever. Fees for credit/debit depend on which processor the farmer picks. Strong vendor buy-in and compliance. A farmers market manager and additional staff as needed. Each market needs dedicated vendors who wish to participate in the vendor- level system, comply with necessary procedures and responsibilities, and process transactions on every market day. Additional time is required for program outreach, as well as weekly accounting and data collection. Some markets hire a food access coordinator to manage these tasks, while others are able to integrate these tasks into the roles of market staff and committed volunteers. An existing or potential customer base of consumers using federal assistance benefits. Consider reaching out to your community partners, including local Departments of Social Services (the agency that issues SNAP/EBT benefits), senior centers, churches, food pantries, soup kitchens, recreation centers, community centers, schools, and aid organizations.
Customers go to a centrally located, easily identifiable tent in the market with their SNAP/EBT/P-EBT or credit/debit card. Customers swipe their snap SNAP/EBT/P-EBT card or credit/debit card and enter the amount they wish to spend. Customers take their tokens to vendors to purchase goods. SNAP/EBT tokens can only be used for SNAP-eligible items and change cannot be given. Credit/debit tokens can be used to purchase any item in the market. Vendors may provide change in cash. SNAP/EBT tokens may be used to purchase SNAP-eligible foods; no change may be given for these SNAP/EBT purchases. Note: $1 SNAP/EBT tokens may not be used as change for credit/debit token purchases. At the end of each market day, vendors count tokens and report total SNAP/EBT and credit/debit tokens received to the market manager, who records these numbers. Some markets have vendors fill out reimbursement forms, collect all tokens, and return forms and tokens to the market manager. During the course of the next week, the market manager verifies the amount of tokens each vendor turned in and handles reimbursement for each vendor’s combined SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, and credit/debit sales. Even though vendors receive only one check for all SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, and credit/debit sales, consider keeping a separate bank account for SNAP/EBT transactions, this makes bookkeeping easier. Some farmers markets charge vendors a service fee for credit/debit transactions to offset the costs of running the program. For instance, some markets charge vendors a 3% fee for all tokens redeemed, so vendors receive $4.85 for each $5 redeemed. Some farmers markets offset the cost of the program by charging a transaction fee to shoppers using the credit/debit service. For instance, if a shopper gets $40 in credit/debit tokens, they would be charged $42 for the service and the $2 would go to offset the costs of the program. On a mutually agreed upon schedule, the market manager reimburses vendors for SNAP/EBT/P-EBT and credit/debit transactions. If the market uses reimbursement forms to track new SNAP/EBT/P-EBT and credit/debit sales, new forms may be distributed at this time as well. The process begins again as customers make new SNAP/EBT/P-EBT and credit/debit transactions and purchase items from vendors.
2 3 4
Market-Level System for SNAP/EBT Acceptance Checklist
The following checklist contains a basic list of requirements to implement a market-level system successfully.
A bank account. (Required) High sales of SNAP/EBT-eligible items. (Required)
Your market must meet one of two USDA eligibility conditions: 1) Offer for sale, on a continuous basis, at least three varieties of qualifying foods in each of four staple food groups (meat, poultry or fish; bread or cereal; fruits or vegetables; dairy products) with perishable foods in at least two of the categories or 2) at least 50 percent of total gross retail sales in SNAP-eligible staple food items. SNAP-eligible items are listed on page 11 of this guide. The capacity to obtain USDA SNAP authorization. (Required) See the USDA SNAP Webpage to begin the registration process to become an authorized vendor. Important note: this process requires that the person filing provide a Social Security Number or an Organizational Federal Identification (FID) number. Farmers markets that decide to participate in the MarketLink program are eligible for hands-on technical assistance with becoming a SNAP-authorized retailer (see page 12 for details). Funding and the ability to fundraise for ongoing program costs. For a list of program costs, see page 24, “Budgeting for Direct and Indirect Costs.” Note: often, it takes several years for markets to see high numbers of SNAP/EBT transactions. Outreach and promotion efforts are essential to increase SNAP shoppers at the market. (see page 32 for details) A Farmers Market Manager, a Food Access Coordinator, and/or someone to do accounting. Each market will need a dedicated individual to operate the SNAP/EBT equipment throughout the duration of each weekly market. Additional time is required for program outreach and for weekly accounting, which includes data collection and vendor reimbursement. Some markets hire a food access coordinator, while others are able to integrate these tasks into the roles of staff and committed volunteers. An existing or potential customer base that would pay for purchases with SNAP/EBT. Consider conducting a survey at your market and/or reaching out to your community partners, including local Departments of Social Services (the agency that issues SNAP/EBT benefits), senior centers, churches, food pantries, soup kitchens, recreation centers, community centers, schools, and aid organizations. This survey can help establish a baseline for demand as well as an estimate for potential customers and SNAP/ EBT sales.
BUDGETING FOR DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS
Wireless SNAP/EBT and Credit/Debit POS Equipment Currently, MarketLink provides direct- marketing farmers and farmers markets with access to the only smart device-based app that accepts SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, eWIC, credit/debit all in one, and in some cases MMM e-incentive transactions. The MarketLink program is a bring-your-own- device (smartphone or tablet) program. This means farmers or markets need their own device and data plan (iOS or Android devices and all cellular data carriers acceptable). Program participants get the TotilPay Go mobile application free for the first year. The card reader is free and the printer waiver is good past the first year. Learn more on page 16 of this guide. Service and Transaction Fees Processors – the companies that connect the electronic payment gateways that enable SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, and credit/debit transactions - typically charge an annual processing fee, transaction fees, and wireless data charges to operate wireless equipment. With MarketLink, there are no fees associated with the card reader, use of the TotilPay Go app for the first year, and there are never any per-transaction fees for SNAP/EBT processing. The app is $191.40/yr. or $19.95/mo. after the first free year. Credit/debit fees depend on which processor customers pick. Service and transaction fees for other POS equipment vary. Processors may not charge users transaction fees for SNAP/EBT processing, only for credit/debit transactions.
Credit/Debit Consider your credit/debit customer base (transaction volume, transaction amount) and decide if you want to accept these payment forms. Since the pandemic, electronic touchless payments have become more common with many more farmers market vendors accepting credit/debit directly. For markets implementing a market-level system, this might mean that offering a credit/debit token system is unnecessary. However, if you do decide to offer credit/debit, you may consider charging a token fee to credit/debit customers to offset the cost of running the program. Note that it is illegal to charge a fee to anyone for using their SNAP/EBT/P-EBT card at farmers markets. Another way to offset costs for debit/credit is to charge vendors a fee for redeeming tokens. For example, some farmers markets charge credit/debit customers $1.50 per transaction and charge vendors a 3 percent token redemption fee. Typically, vendors understand the card machine increases sales and are amenable to this slight charge. If your market is in an area that is unlikely to have high credit/debit sales but more SNAP sales, you will need to offset SNAP/EBT/P-EBT transaction costs through increased vendor fees or additional fundraising. Purchasing Tokens If your market is implementing a market-level system, you will need to order separate sets of tokens for SNAP/EBT ($1) and optionally, credit/debit ($5) transactions. You can order tokens from any token manufacturer that allows you to customize your coins by uploading images, including your market logo, on each side of your coin. It is advisable to list "no change given" somewhere on the SNAP token design. Consider differentiating between the $1 SNAP/EBT tokens and the $5 credit/debit tokens, if applicable, by using different images or colors. When ordering tokens, keep in mind that customers may hang on to their coins from week-to-week. In its first year offering SNAP/EBT, a large market in Baltimore (54 vendors) averaged $700 in SNAP/EBT sales per week and $800 in credit/debit sales. By contrast, a smaller market (13 vendors) averaged $100 in SNAP/EBT sales per week and $80 in credit/debit sales. Based on these numbers, a smaller market might consider ordering approximately 500 $1 tokens and 200 $5 tokens and a larger market might order 2000 $1 tokens and 1000 $5 tokens. To store and manage your tokens, use zip-top bags, a poker chip tray, or other homemade chip tray.
Materials and Supplies Budget for miscellaneous costs, including, but not limited to: a case for your SNAP equipment, equipment accessories such as receipt paper, a market manager tent, internal market signage indicating the manager's tent or market info booth, program promotional materials, and vendor training materials. Marketing and Advertisement Budgeting for advertising and outreach is key to a successful SNAP/EBT program. Suggestions for effective promotional campaigns, including information on starting a benefit incentive program, are included in the following sections.
Administrative Costs Unless you have a dedicated volunteer, farmers markets using the market-level system should plan on hiring staff to operate the SNAP/EBT (and credit/debit) token system during market and handle subsequent accounting/vendor reimbursements. See page 22 for a detailed explanation of administrator responsibilities. Banking Fees All SNAP/EBT machines must be linked to a bank account. Many banks offer free monthly checking accounts, but some may charge if you write more than a certain number of checks during a set time period. Be sure to confirm the terms of the bank account so as to avoid unnecessary fees.
MATCHING FEDERAL NUTRITION BENEFITS
Matching (or incentivizing) federal nutrition benefits at farmers markets helps farmers, customers, and the farmers market community as a whole. While these types of programs vary from state to state, and often from market to market, the basic premise of an incentive program is to provide matching dollars to customers who spend their SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, WIC-CVB, and/or FMNP (WIC/Senior) at the market. Incentive programs can provide a dollar-for-dollar match to customers up to a certain dollar amount, such as $10, $20, or $30 dollars, per market day. In this section of the guide, we will outline the basics of implementing an incentive program at your farmers market.
Securing Funds Funding for incentive programs can come from a number of different sources including private foundations, donations from community members, fundraisers, and some local, state, and federal government grants. Creating a Currency, Implementation, and Redemption System You will need a separate market currency for incentives, as you will need to track incentive distribution and redemption separately from other payment forms. Many markets create paper vouchers or use customized tokens. You will need to set up a system to collect, document, and reimburse vendors for the tokens or vouchers shoppers have spent with them.
MARYLAND MARKET MONEY
Maryland Market Money (MMM) is a statewide food access program that feeds Marylanders and supports farmers. MMM removes economic barriers for Marylanders experiencing food insecurity, providing a dollar-for-dollar match for purchases made using federal nutrition benefits at participating Maryland farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs while providing technical assistance, training, marketing, and additional services to stakeholders.
SMADC administers this nutrition incentive food access program at participating farmers markets throughout the state, using a token system. A pilot program is underway to transition away from token economies to e-incentives. For direct-marketing farms, the process is much simpler and does not involve tokens since a farm is a single vendor entity. The goal of this program is to be available at farmers markets and farms in every county in Maryland, and MMM continues to expand the program each season. Participating MMM access points offer incentives to shoppers for SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, WIC-CVB, and/or FMNP (WIC/Senior) spending at those access points. At farmers markets, using MMM tokens, each market provides eligible customers with a dollar-for-dollar match up to a certain amount per market day for federal nutrition benefits spent while direct marketing farms usually offer a 50% discount on products up to a certain maximum discount dollar amount per day. For more information about joining the MMM program or for information about implementing incentive programs at your market or farm, visit the Maryland Market Money website.
For more information, contact: email@example.com (240) 528 – 8850 ext 305
Maryland Market Money E-Incentives Pilot Program During the 2022 market season, Maryland Market Money (MMM) began a pilot program to transition from plastic $1 incentive tokens to incentives offered via an app-based digital wallet called MyMarketLink. The electronic incentives (e- Incentives) pilot was funded by the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s Food for Montgomery Fund and implemented in participating Montgomery County farmers markets. Vendors will need a separate app, TotilPay Go, in order to accept MMM e-Incentives from MyMarketLink customers. E-incentive resources can be found on the MMM website .
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Farmers Market Vendors TotilPay Go is an affordable mobile point-of-sale system for processing SNAP/EBT, MMM e-Incentives, eWIC, and debit/credit all in one platform. Pricing for vendors at farmers market is $19.95/month or $191.40/year (20% savings vs month- to-month). Vendors can get a 1-year subscription of TotilPay Go for FREE through the MarketLink grant funded by USDA. The MarketLink grant is a program of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP). Vendors must be SNAP authorized or become SNAP authorized in order to qualify for the grant. In addition to a 1-year free subscription to TotilPay Go, the MarketLink grant also provides a free Bluetooth SNAP/EBT card reader for vendors to keep. In order for vendors to also process eWIC benefits through TotilPay, WIC authorization through the Maryland Department of Health is necessary. To apply for the MarketLink free equipment grant visit the MarketLink website. Additionally, vendors have the option to only accept e-Incentives via the TotilPay Go app. This version of TotilPay Go is called “TIMS only” and is available at a reduced price of $9.95/month. MMM may have grant funding available to cover this cost for the first year in some jurisdictions.
For Customers – MyMarketLink app digital wallet SNAP/EBT, P-EBT, eWIC, and FMNP (WIC & Senior) are all eligible to use MMM e-incentives at participating farmers markets. The MyMarketLink app features a QR code linked to MMM e-Incentives that is scannable by vendors using TotilPay Go or the Totil Incentive Management System (TIMS) only version of TotilPay Go. Additionally, the MyMarketLink app features a wallet with a live balance of benefits, as well as a map feature with e-incentives access points. MyMarketLink is available on both iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded at:
Apple Store Google Play Store
CONDUCTING SUCCESSFUL OUTREACH
Outreach is essential to bolstering successful federal nutrition benefit expenditures at farmers markets. Know your community A farmers market (or direct marketing farmer) that is dedicated to creating a welcoming, inclusive environment that reflects the needs of all its customers is going to be well positioned to create a successful market community. To create this environment, a market needs to be flexible and consider all of its customers’ needs. Market should know the demographics of their community, including how many residents are currently participating in organizers SNAP. USDA FNS tools may help identify your community demographics. Knowledge of the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the community will be important in order to understand the needs of the customer base and to identify potential barriers to shopping at the market, such as language differences, transportation needs, physical accessibility for the elderly, differently abled bodies and families; even product variety.
Promoting your benefit program is necessary to raise awareness of your program within and outside of your community as well as attract new customers to your market. Outreach efforts should begin prior to the start of your program and continue regularly once the program is under way. When choosing what media outlets or forms of advertising to utilize, it is important to consider how to best reach benefit-eligible audiences in your community. Some ways to promote your benefit programs may include:
Signage at the market and around the community Social media posts Postcards Newspaper or radio ads Info table at local events or service providers
Reach out to families with children. More than 50% of individuals receiving SNAP benefits are children. Involving children in the farmers market promotes a festive, community atmosphere.
Consider writing a press release about your market and benefit programs. Send it to local news stations for wide distribution. Holding a program launch event at your market can also be a fun and effective way to draw new customers to your market.
Marketing and Advertising When thinking about how to target your advertising, consider what newspapers your benefit customers read, and the radio stations they listen to. If they use public transportation, what bus or train lines do they frequent? Are there church bulletins or neighborhood newsletters where you could advertise SNAP, FMNP, and eWIC at your farmers market or farm stand? A targeted effort, rather than an advertising campaign for the entire town or city, will cost less and will be more effective in reaching the intended audience. The best advertising is free advertising in the form of news stories about the market or calendar listings in the local paper. Get to know your local reporters and pitch stories about your benefit acceptance, new and interesting products at the market, and upcoming events. Submit press releases because many local newspapers will simply reprint them. After you have developed a relationship with several reporters they will look to you for stories. These days, a lot of people are interested in healthy, nutritious foods, including many local politicians. For example, A SNAP project at the market is a feel-good story that most politicians will support. Invite them to a special event welcoming SNAP customers to your market and invite the local press to cover the story.
Printed Outreach Materials
All outreach materials should include the location, operating dates and times of the market. The language used should be simple and easy to understand. If someone only glances at the sign, they should be able to pick out the important information easily. Use color, pictures or unique designs to grab the readers’ attention, but do not make the flyer too busy. A great way to catch SNAP users’ attention is to include a picture of the SNAP Independence card. This image is universally recognized by the population you are trying to target and will also be easily recognized by those who might have trouble reading. Consider the potential customers you would like to reach. Are there populations within the targeted community that speak another language? If so, consider printing bilingual flyers or multiple versions of the flyer in different languages. Outreach materials like flyers, posters and door hangers are great ways to draw customers and new vendors to your farmers market. It is important when designing these materials to consider the following:
Be sure to consult someone fluent in the language(s) to ensure proper translation and grammar. This could be a local source, volunteer, or a market ambassador!
Social Media and Newsletters Social media can be a great, no or low cost way to reach your audience. When posting to any social media site, make sure your posts are clear and concise. Do not use jargon or acronyms; spell things out, and use terms that shoppers can relate to such as “SNAP Independence cards” when you are referring to SNAP or "Senior Coupons" when referring to Senior FMNP. Use the SNAP Independence card image on some of your posts so that customers can visually identify what you are posting about. Let customers know what they can purchase with their eWIC card by sharing images of vendors’ produce and their eWIC signs. This practice will help to create familiarity and comfort between the vendor, customer and market as a whole.
With free software for creating newsletters like Constant Contact and MailChimp widely available, writing a farmers market or farm stand newsletter is a viable marketing mechanism for many. A best practice is to send out weekly newsletters during the farmers market or peak season (and less frequently during the offseason for markets that are not year-round). Additionally, it is best to keep newsletters short and sweet. Include benefit acceptance, seasonal availability, events, and vendor spotlights. A sign- up sheet should be readily visible at market, and market managers and farmers should encourage shoppers to sign up.
Community Partnerships Launching and maintaining successful benefit programs requires a variety of partners, representing diverse groups from your community that can work to get the word out to potential benefit customers, promote your matching programs, and possibly assist with funding efforts. Farmers markets and direct marketing farmers should partner with a wide range of groups, including agriculture organizations, “buy local” initiatives, food access and poverty focused groups, as well as government and non-governmental civic groups. Most likely, your market is already working with some partners to build community, reach out to a new audience, and create cross-promotions, but you may want to explore new partnerships that will specifically support your work. Think “outside the box” about who might be able to support your efforts. Not all partners need to be associated with agricultural issues or nutrition education to be a good fit. The key to good partnerships is that both partners benefit from the relationship.
Where to look:
City, state and federal government agencies Local public health department SNAP administrative agency Local transportation department WIC office Senior Centers Schools Hospitals, clinics and healthcare agencies Tenant Associations Food Pantries Anti-hunger and anti-poverty organizations Places of worship Economic development entities Neighboring farmers markets Farmers market associations And many more…
SNAP-Ed Maryland SNAP-Ed is a program within University of Maryland Extension that creates healthier environments and improves the health and wellbeing of families with limited incomes across Maryland. SNAP-Ed programs encourage a nutritious and active lifestyle through increased food access, drinking more water, and promoting physical activity. SNAP-Ed provides comprehensive programs that consist of nutrition education lessons, social marketing programs and policy, system and environmental-level changes at partnering sites. SNAP-Ed connects local farmers and farmers’ markets with Marylanders with limited incomes to increase access to locally grown fruits and vegetables. SNAP- Ed supports farmers with marketing and promotion efforts, encouraging EBT acceptance at markets and farm stands, and helps to foster community connections through market tours and farmer visits to local SNAP-Ed sites. Eat Smart shares healthy recipes and weekly blog posts with nutrition and physical activity ideas to help your family make healthy choices.
While some of your market’s partners will be central to the success of a certain benefit, others may just play a small but useful role, such as helping to purchase new banners for the market that promotes SNAP.
RESOURCE GUIDE AND LINKS
Below are some additional resources to help you address the key issues related to accepting nutrition assistance program benefits at your farmers market.
Additional Farmers Market SNAP/EBT Toolkits and Information:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To- Handbook - A joint publication of the USDA and Project for Public Spaces, Inc. Real Food, Real Choice: Connecting SNAP Recipients with Farmers Markets - A joint publication of the Community Food Security Coalition and Farmers Market Coalition.
Farmers Market Resources:
DMV Black Owned and Operated Farms The Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit Farm Direct Incentives Guide 2023 Maryland Farmers Market Directory Farmers Market Vendor Agreement Legal Guide Maryland Farmers Market Google Group
Permit Guide for Farmers Markets in Baltimore City. Market Share a free resource from Market Umbrella for information and tools. MarketLink resources page
Registering to become an Authorized SNAP Retailer (Page 12):
USDA SNAP webpage for resources and to begin the SNAP registration process. USDA SNAP eligibility conditions USDA SNAP Retailer Training Materials
FMNP (WIC/Senior) and WIC-FVB Registration (Page 14 & 15):
Farmers Market Nutrition Program Factsheet MDA Information for Maryland Farmers Markets MDH WIC Farmers page
Funding Sources For Matching/Incentives (Page 28):
Farmers Market Promotion Program Specialty Crop Block Grant Wholesome Wave Foundation GusNIP
Maryland WIC Offices SNAP-Ed Free summer meal sites DSS Offices Food pantries and soup kitchens Maryland Hunger Solutions Guide to Getting Food Stamps in Maryland
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