The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, is the nation’s largest nutritional assistance program. The program is managed at the federal level by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and requires that food vendors be licensed with FNS before accepting SNAP benefits for approved food items. In Michigan, the program is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services and is referred to as the Food Assistance Program.
SNAP benefits can be used to purchase any approved food item for human consumption and seeds and plants that produce food. Clients receive their benefits via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system that works like a debit card to transfer their benefits to the food retailer. In Michigan, the EBT card has a picture of the Mackinac Bridge on it and is called the SNAP Bridge Card.
Michigan Farmers Markets and Direct Marketing Farmers Can Apply for No Cost Wireless SNAP Equipment and Service
In 2017, the State of Michigan pledged support to help sustain and grow the ability of farmers markets and direct marketing farmers to accept SNAP benefits by including funds in the 2018 state budget to obtain no cost wireless point of sale devices and service. Since that time, more than 75 markets have applied for and received this equipment bolstering their ability to securely provide healthy food access to their customers. If your market or farm stand is interested in obtaining no-cost wireless point of sale equipment and service, now is the time!
For Market Managers and Community Partners
In Michigan, 1 in 7 people receive SNAP benefits, and 1.5 million residents received $153 million in SNAP benefits in the month of August 2018. In 2017, more than $619,000 worth of SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers markets in Michigan.
MIFMA’s has compiled a resource manual titled “Accepting SNAP Bridge Cards at Michigan Farmers Markets” to help farmers market managers learn everything they need to know about accepting SNAP benefits including information on (1) designating a responsible party, (2) completing the USDA FNS application, (3) obtaining a point of sale device, (4) setting up an alternative redemption system and (5) implementing the program at your farmers market. This resource is available for purchase through the MIFMA Store and is also available as a free PDF download to current MIFMA Members.
Annually, MIFMA also hosts and records a webinar to provide additional guidance to farmers markets that are starting to accept SNAP benefits. Access the recording of the 2016 Accepting SNAP at Michigan Farmers Markets webinar here.
In May of 2015, MIFMA hosted a webinar titled “Supporting Food Assistance at Farmers Markets: Costs, Barriers, Needs, and Opportunities” that shared the results of a study performed by Growing Hope that explored what is needed to increase food assistance acceptance and sales at farmers markets. The study assessed infrastructure, systems/management, marketing, training barriers and opportunities for successful food assistance acceptance at farmers markets throughout Washtenaw County. On this webinar, Growing Hope shared results from their study as well as their own financial analysis of what it really takes (time, money, et al) on the back end to administer food assistance acceptance at farmers markets, and the variables one should consider when aiming to understand and budget for these administrative costs.This webinar was supported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
MIFMA recognizes that the increase in the number of farmers markets in Michigan accepting SNAP Bridge Cards would not have been possible without the support of partners from all over the state. If you represent an organization that would like to support SNAP acceptance at farmers markets in your community, information and resources to guide your work were discussed in a webinar titled “Supporting SNAP Acceptance at Farmers Markets in Your Community” recorded in February 2014. An additional webinar titled “How Your Agency or Organization Can Promote SNAP Acceptance at Farmers Markets” was also recorded in April 2014 to focus on partnering around promotion and outreach to SNAP clients. These webinars were supported by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
More information about SNAP Bridge Card acceptance at farmers markets in Michigan can be found in the report titled “Bridging the Gap Report: Connecting Vulnerable Michigan Families with Local Food and Farmers 2017 SNAP Bridge Card Use at Michigan Farmers Markets Reportt”. MIFMA has compiled this report annually since 2009, and previous reports are available here. Additional information about accepting SNAP at your farmers market is available on a fact sheet outlining Frequently Asked Questions about SNAP and is also available from USDA FNS.
For SNAP Recipients
To learn more about whether you may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits or to complete an application, visit the MI Bridges online resource.
To find a farmers market that accepts SNAP Bridge Cards, visit the Find a Farmers Market feature of this website.