Michigan Invests in Healthy Food Access Through Farmers Markets

      Posted On: August 10, 2017

The Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) and farmers markets across Michigan that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as the SNAP Bridge Card have big a reason to celebrate!

When Governor Snyder signed the 2018 fiscal year budget on July 14, the State of Michigan pledged support to help sustain and grow the ability of farmers markets and direct marketing farmers to accept SNAP benefits. The budget included much anticipated and needed support for the wireless point of sale devices that are necessary for most markets and farmers to be able to accept these benefits.

Of the estimated 300 farmers markets in Michigan, more than 160 currently accept SNAP Bridge Cards. More than half of the markets that accept SNAP currently utilize wireless devices that incur costs to operate. Costs range from $5 each month to more than a $1,000 a year in fees and associated costs. Farmers markets and direct marketing farmers often conduct SNAP transactions in locations that do not have access to electricity and landline phone services, making wireless devices necessary in order to create access to fresh, nutritious food for SNAP shoppers in these locations. The access a farmers market has to a wireless point of sales device is also imperative to implementing Fair Food Network’s SNAP incentive program, Double Up Food Bucks.

“While this is a huge victory for farmers markets that accept SNAP Bridge Cards, it is an even bigger win for the families that depend on and utilize SNAP benefits, families that are looking for fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables to put on their plate,” explains Amanda Shreve, Program Director for MIFMA. “It took a lot of education and many conversations for us to reach this goal, however, the work is worth it because it will help ensure that everyone has access to the fresh, nutritious food that is available at Michigan’s farmers markets.”

Shreve, along with members of Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan, played an integral role in advocating on the behalf of Michigan farmers, farmers markets, and families who utilize SNAP benefits. Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan is a statewide coalition of more than 200 organizations dedicated to reducing childhood obesity in Michigan through strategic policy initiatives.

“The 2018 budget will ensure that no-cost, wireless point of sales devices will be accessible to farmers markets starting in the 2018 farmers market season,” said Andrew Schepers, Chair of Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan and Director of Michigan Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We’re pleased with this opportunity, which will increase access to healthier foods for many around the state.”

If you’re interested in learning more about including a no-cost EBT equipment option in your state’s SNAP contract, or connecting with farmers market leaders in other states working on this issue, please contact Alex Canepa at alex@farmersmarketcoalition.org.