EBT Vendor Policies and Training

Once the market management has decided whether to offer “EBT only” or “EBT and
debit/credit,” we recommend making sure that your vendors understand and agree with
these plans. Discussing opportunities and challenges with the key people up front can
help reduce the reluctance that tends to accompany change and make sure everyone
understands the impacts of this change. Many markets have found that written
agreements are useful and may help avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Market Management
Depending on how your market is incorporated, the program leaders may be your board
of directors, an advisory group, steering committee, or other market sponsors,
advocates and organizers. As previously mentioned, running an EBT and debit/credit
program at the farmers market requires additional time, recordkeeping, promotion, and
financial liability. Markets should also be clear upfront about any new policies that
might be needed. When designing how your program will work, consider the following
questions:

  • Will vendors be required to participate in the EBT and debit/credit token program? Or will it be voluntary? Think about this question from shoppers’ perspective: what is easier for them? What will make more shoppers happier and encourage them to buy more food? Keep in mind that how you present your EBT and debit/credit token program will reflect on your market as a whole. If you have some vendors that don’t participate, will it be confusing or frustrating to shoppers? How will you handle this situation?
  • Will vendors be allowed to pay for their stall fees with market tokens?
  • How frequently will vendors be reimbursed? Some markets reimburse their vendors on a weekly basis and others tend to do so monthly. The frequency may depend on your bookkeeping system and whether you have a trained bookkeeper or accountant working for your market. For many small markets, it is more straightforward to reimburse vendors each week, without having to accumulate balances over time.
  • How will the market cover the costs associated with this program?
  • Whose name(s) and Social Security number(s) will be on the FNS application? Best practice is for this not to be the manager and for multiple people to be the responsible parties on the permit (such as the board officers/committee members). Who will be responsible for managing the EBT and/or debit/credit program for the market?
  • How will you staff this program on market day? Someone will need to be at the market info booth and available at all times. Will you use volunteers, representatives from partner organizations or paid staff to do this?

Vendors
Letting vendors know “why” the market is going to offer EBT and/or debit/credit is very
helpful. One of the reasons may be that the market is adopting this program to increase
vendor sales. Remind vendors that the market is paying for and shouldering most of the
work in managing the EBT and debit/credit program. If you plan to charge vendors for
this service, make sure to explain this to them early in the process. Regardless, some
vendors may be hesitant or unwilling to participate. Other markets have found that
these vendors will likely change their minds once they realize they are losing sales by
not accepting the EBT or debit/credit tokens.

New Technologies
New technologies such as the Square card reader for smart phones are making it easier
and cheaper for vendors to accept debit/credit cards directly from shoppers. This may
make sense for vendors with higher priced items, such as meats, fish, dairy, or wine.
Should vendors be encouraged to accept credit and/or debit cards directly or should the
market create its own token program to accept debit/credit cards? In reality, both
options are commonly available at markets. This creates more options for shoppers,
vendors, and, ultimately, the market itself.

Click here to continue reading and learn more about SNAP EBT Outreach and Promotion.