The Texas Center for Local Food, a nonprofit dedicated to developing healthy local food, has a message for families who are getting food assistance: Spend it at your local farmers market.
According to a release, the group has initiated a new project to promote the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets in Texas, via a one-year grant of $439,951 from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, using funds allocated to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, as part of the Farm Bill. Hoo boy, that is a lot of groups with capital letters.
SNAP is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp program, which provides food assistance to low-income households.
Based on figures from 2019-2020, more than $400 million dollars in SNAP payments are made in Texas every month, with an average 12.4 percent or 1.6 million Texans receiving benefits.
SNAP benefit recipients are allowed to use their SNAP cards to buy fresh, local food at farmers markets.
In the DFW area, these farmers markets currently accept Lone Star Cards:
- Dallas Farmers Market, 920 S. Harwood St. (Saturdays 9 am-5 pm, Sundays 10 am-5 pm year round)
- White Rock Farmers Market, 9150 Garland Rd. (Saturdays, 8 am-12 pm, March-December)
- Lakewood Village Farmers Market, 6434 E Mockingbird Rd. (Sundays, 9 am-2 pm, February-August)
- Cowtown Farmers Market, 3821 Southwest Blvd., Fort Worth. (Saturdays, 8 am-12 pm year round)
- Denton Community Market, 317 W. Mulberry St., Denton. (Saturdays 9 am-1 pm April-November)
But there are obstacles getting in the way of that happening:
No. 1: Many SNAP recipients don't know they can use their SNAP cards at farmers markets.
According to 2020 statistics from Texas Center for Local Food, Texas ranked 47th out of the 50 states in SNAP sales at farmers markets.
"Farmers markets are a critical link in the local food system, and lower-income families have access to fresh, local food — but too many don’t know it — yet!" says Sue Beckwith, Texas Center for Local Food executive director. "Our new project will get more Texas-grown, farm fresh produce onto SNAP recipients' tables."
No. 2: Farmers markets face multiple hurdles to accepting SNAP.
For starters, farmers markets need help setting up and using the equipment for SNAP processing, says Susie Marshall, Executive Director of Grow North Texas, a SNAP-ED project partner.
"The equipment required to process SNAP is different from normal card processing equipment. It requires its own setup and specialized training," Marshall says. Her group provides technical assistance to help farmers markets adopt and use the equipment.
Another hurdle for farmers markets accepting SNAP is the cost of the equipment and processing. But the Texas Center for Local Food can help offset those costs. To find out how or become a member, visit TexasLocalFood.org/Join-Us.
Based in Elgin, Texas, the Texas Center for Local Food was created in 2016 by small farmers and ranchers to strengthen the economic viability of Texas communities and family farms by making the local food system economically stronger.