By Sally Voth firstname.lastname@example.org
Farmers' markets in Virginia have a couple more weeks to apply for state help in getting wireless machines that will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $4 million -- with $92,000 available in the commonwealth -- to get the Electronic Benefit Transfer machines to farmers' markets, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"The big push is to have our clients make better food choices, so [the] USDA has been encouraging markets to accept SNAP for several years, but they're really getting more and more attention behind it," said Toni Blue Washington, an EBT project consultant with the Virginia Department of Social Services. "We think it's a win-win for our clients and for the farmers out there. This gives them another source of revenue and it helps our clients make better food choices."
Each wireless machine costs about $1,000, Washington said. She said the funding will cover the cost of the machine and monthly fees associated with each SNAP transaction.
While the machines also can be used for credit card and debit card payments, the markets would have to have a separate contract to cover their use, according to Washington.
SNAP clients wishing to use their benefit card at a farmers' market, would go to a central location at the market and say how much money they wish to use at eligible vendors, Washington said. Their cards will be swiped and they'll be given tokens. Vendors then turn in the tokens for the appropriate amount of cash, according to Washington.
Funds must be encumbered by Sept. 30, so there is a Sept. 7 deadline for market managers to apply for the program, Washington said. Some machines have already been given out, she said.
Interested market managers should contact Washington at email@example.com, or 804 726-7662, or Leanne DuBois at VDACS at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 804 225-3663, according to the release.