There are roughly 7,000 farmers markets in the U.S. And right now about a quarter are able to process Electronic Benefit Transfers, EBT cards, so that people using food stamps can buy fresh produce and other goods produced by local farmers.
The federal government has allocated $4 million in grants to help more markets buy the equipment needed to handle EBT cards.
Critics say farmers markets are too expensive and won’t attract food stamp recipients. But Sara Cardinale, director of the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Virginia, tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young that they’ve seen their sales rise dramatically since becoming the first market in Virginia to accept food stamps.
She says most food stamp users are buying fresh produce, and contrary to popular belief, it is affordable.
“There was a study in the southeast region… that took a sampling of items at the market… And… something like 75 percent of the time, the food was as affordable, or even cheaper than it was at the supermarket,” she said.
The exception, she says, is for pasture raised meat and dairy products which are generally more expensive.
- Study: Is Local Food Affordable For Everyone? (pdf)
- Wholesome Wave: Program that Funds Abingdon Farmers Market’s Matching Program
- Sara Cardinale, director of the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Virginia.