What Would You Do?

By: Jen Cheek       Posted On: November 25, 2014

Hello FMC Members and Supporters,

Last month we announced that FMC was selected by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to assist with the creation and implementation of two separate initiatives: administration of $3.3 million in support grants for SNAP at farmers markets, and the distribution of $700,000 in EBT equipment for existing SNAP programs at farmers markets. This opportunity is the result of years of work and dedication from hundreds of FMC members and partners, and we’re so pleased for the chance to work side by side with FNS to improve SNAP at markets.

FMC staff is in the process of applying the knowledge we’ve gleaned from our membership to assist FNS in crafting funding opportunities that will support the growth and sustainability of SNAP at farmers markets across the country. All of the surveys, conference calls, meetings, listerv questions, email chains and conversations that you’ve taken part in over the years are helping to create these two new programs: one to provide funds for EBT equipment for existing SNAP programs at farmers markets, and one to fund programmatic support (personnel, scrip, supplies, outreach materials, etc.). This update is specifically related to the latter program—the 3.3 million available for a grant program we’re calling Farmers Market EBT Support. (FMES).

Over the past month and a half, we’ve been working with USDA FNS to sort through the requirements of the federal funding processes, offer in-depth analysis of existing farmers market support programs, and identify ways to make the funding as flexible and impactful as possible.

As a coalition, it’s our instinct to include our membership in this conversation—to solicit your input from beginning to end of this process. However, it is important to note that people and organizations who are directly involved in the development of the program will be ineligible to receive funding due to conflict-of interest. In order to ensure that as many of our members (and the broader farmers market community) will be eligible to apply for and receive this federal funding, we have consciously limited how much of this process is shared. We are seeking guidance from FNS to determine exactly what type of activity would preclude a person/organization from applying for grants. Please know that although we may not have contacted you directly regarding this grant process, FMC’s work on this project is fueled by the collective knowledge and experience of our membership.

Information on the support grants will be available in early 2015, through the release of the request for applications (RFA). In the meantime, we’ll be releasing intermittent updates regarding the eligible grant uses, with the hope that they’ll get your wheels turning. Here’s the latest on the Farmers Market EBT Support grants:

The new FMES grants are intended to help increase SNAP accessibility and participation at farmers markets, and build the capacity of the nation’s markets to maintain long-term SNAP success. Thriving SNAP programs at farmers markets help FNS fulfill the agency’s goal of expanding access to healthy foods for SNAP participants by supporting local food systems.

Acceptable uses of the grant funds will include:

  1. Personnel costs to operate SNAP at farmers markets;
  2. Materials to inform and educate SNAP participants of their ability to use their benefits at farmers’ markets; and
  3. Miscellaneous equipment, such as scrip, and technology infrastructure (wifi hotspots, phone lines, electrical lines, etc.) necessary to operate SNAP at farmers markets.

FNS expects to support a wide variety of SNAP-focused projects through this grant opportunity—from state and regional-level initiatives to projects focused on one individual market. Preference will be given to applicants who propose initiatives that feature collaboration with multiple markets and/or partners, and encourage long-term sustainability of SNAP at farmers markets. While specific eligibility requirements will be included in the RFA, the opportunity is intended to be open to a variety of entities working to build low-income access at farmers markets, at a variety of scales (regional and state networks, local governments, nonprofits, individual markets, etc.).

With that said: what kinds of programs, initiatives, or supplies would help build, improve or expand the SNAP program at your market? Share your simple, or wild ideas with us on the listerv, or email us at ebt@farmersmarketcoalition.org. We’d love to hear how you’d expand SNAP programming, capitalize on community resources and networks, or address barriers if you had the resources. While we can’t answer questions regarding the grant opportunity at this point, hearing your thoughts and ideas will help us make sure we’re on the right track.

Your support and participation has made this opportunity a reality and will ensure its success. Thank you for all that you do!

Warm wishes,

Jen Cheek
Executive Director
Farmers Market Coalition