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Electronic Benefit Transfer payment at farmers' markets

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government Grantmakers
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is the electronic payment system of debit cards that the government uses to issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to eligible recipients. SNAP benefits used to be paper-based and easy to redeem at farmers’ markets; when the EBT mandate passed, benefit redemption at farmers’ markets declined dramatically. Farmers' markets enabled to accept EBT re-establish an opportunity for low income shoppers to access fresh, locally grown foods. EBT is in pilot stages for other government nutrition assistance programs.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased access to fruits & vegetables
Increased fruit & vegetable consumption

Evidence of Effectiveness

Enabling EBT payment at farmers’ markets is a suggested strategy to promote access to fruits and vegetables (IOM-Government obesity prevention 2009, CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011, USDA-EBT feasibility 2010). Available research describes the lack of EBT payment at farmers’ markets as a barrier to fruit and vegetable consumption for low income consumers. This research (mostly surveys and interviews) suggests that accepting EBT at farmers’ markets would increase access to fruits and vegetables for card holders (Young 2011, Jones 2011, Guthman 2006, IATP-EBT 2010, Hood 2012, Leone 2012). However, additional evidence is needed to demonstrate the effects of EBT acceptance at farmers’ markets.

The average annual cost of operating wireless EBT at a farmers’ market open for a 6-month growing season is approximately $1,255 (USDA-EBT feasibility 2010). A pilot study associated individual wireless EBT terminals for each farmers’ market vendor with a 38% sales increase over the sales with one centrally located terminal per farmers’ market; however, this increase did not offset the cost of having a terminal for each vendor (Buttenheim 2012). 


United States

As of December 2015, 28% of the 8,500 farmers’ markets in the US accepted SNAP benefits (USDA-Farmers market directory) and New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC had the highest percentage of farmers’ markets accepting EBT (CDC-State indicator 2013). Some municipalities require farmers’ markets to accept EBT (e.g., San Francisco) (SF Farmers Markets) and several state legislatures have enacted legislation to support using EBT machines at farmers’ markets (e.g., California, Indiana, and Massachusetts) (NCSL-Farmers market, Hood 2012). Many farmers’ markets that accept EBT report increases in SNAP benefit redemption (e.g., Philadelphia Food Trust farmers’ markets (Philadelphia Food Trust) and NYC Greenmarket program (NYC Greenmarket). 


As of December 2015, 23% of the 302 farmers’ markets in Wisconsin accepted SNAP EBT payments (USDA-Farmers market directory). The Wisconsin Food Security Project provides local data about food security infrastructure in Wisconsin, including data about food retailers accepting SNAP or WIC benefits (UW Ext-WFSP).

Implementation Resources

Baesler 2010 - Baesler A. How to implement SNAP and EBT into your farmers' market: information and recommendations for farmers' markets organizations and direct marketing farmers/producers. Saint Paul: Minnesota Department of Agriculture; 2010. Accessed on December 7, 2015
CDC-DNPAO data - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). Nutrition, physical activity and obesity: Data, trends and maps online tool. Accessed on June 16, 2017
FMC-SNAP guide - Farmers Market Coalition (FMC). SNAP guide for farmers markets. Accessed on March 16, 2017
LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC). 2014. Accessed on June 16, 2017
PolicyLink-HFAP map - PolicyLink, The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), The Food Trust. Healthy food access portal (HFAP): Research your community interactive map for healthy food access. Accessed on March 1, 2016
USDA-FNS EBT - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Supplemental nutrition assistance program: Learn how you can accept SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets. Accessed on February 7, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Buttenheim 2012* - Buttenheim AM, Havassy J, Fang M, Glyn J, Karpyn AE. Increasing supplemental nutrition assistance program/electronic benefits transfer sales at farmers’ markets with vendor-operated wireless point-of-sale terminals. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(5):636–41. Accessed on November 30, 2015
CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases: The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2011. Accessed on March 1, 2017
Guthman 2006* - Guthman J, Morris AW, Allen P. Squaring farm security and food security in two types of alternative food institutions. Rural Sociology. 2006;71(4):662-84. Accessed on February 5, 2016
Hood 2012 - Hood C, Martinez-Donate A, Meinen A. Promoting healthy food consumption: A review of state-level policies to improve access to fruits and vegetables. Wisconsin Medical Journal. 2012;111(6):283-8. Accessed on February 4, 2016
IATP-EBT 2010 - Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). EBT at farmers markets: Initial insights from national research and local dialogue. Minneapolis: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP); 2010. Accessed on February 4, 2016
IOM-Government obesity prevention 2009* - Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments. Local government actions to prevent childhood obesity. (Parker L, Burns AC, Sanchez E, eds.). Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2009. Accessed on May 10, 2017
Jones 2011* - Jones P, Bhatia R. Supporting equitable food systems through food assistance at farmers’ markets. American Journal of Public Health. 2011;101(5):781-3. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Leone 2012* - Leone LA, Beth D, Ickes SB, et al. Attitudes toward fruit and vegetable consumption and farmers' market usage among low-income North Carolinians. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2012;7(1):64-76. Accessed on February 17, 2016
USDA-EBT feasibility 2010 - US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP): Feasibility of implementing electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems in farmers’ markets. 2010. Accessed on February 10, 2017
Young 2011* - Young C, Karpyn A, Uy N, Wich K, Glyn J. Farmers’ markets in low income communities: Impact of community environment, food programs and public policy. Community Development. 2011;42(2):208-20. Accessed on November 24, 2015

Citations - Implementation

CDC-State indicator 2013 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (DNPAO). State indicator report on fruits and vegetables, 2013. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2013. Accessed on March 1, 2017
Hood 2012 - Hood C, Martinez-Donate A, Meinen A. Promoting healthy food consumption: A review of state-level policies to improve access to fruits and vegetables. Wisconsin Medical Journal. 2012;111(6):283-8. Accessed on February 4, 2016
NCSL-Farmers market - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Farmers’ market. Accessed on April 6, 2016
NYC Greenmarket - Grow NYC. EBT and more at Greenmarket. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Philadelphia Food Trust - The Food Trust. Farmers’ market program: Operating 30-plus farmer’s markets in the Philadelphia region. Accessed on February 1, 2016
SF Farmers Markets - City and County of San Francisco. Recreation and park - farmers’ markets. Amendment of the Whole Ordinance No. 29-07: File No. 061112. Accessed on November 9, 2015
USDA-Farmers market directory - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Local food directories: National farmers market directory. Accessed on February 10, 2017
UW Ext-WFSP - University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UW Ext). Wisconsin food security project (WFSP): Your source for visualizing and downloading data on food access and the food security infrastructure in Wisconsin. Accessed on February 29, 2016

Page Last Updated

December 9, 2015

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