Let's Make One Small Change - And Bring Fresh Food To Millions

Authors: Shamar Bibbins

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Did you know that a simple, easily-fixed issue forces low-income people to buy unhealthy food instead of fresh fruits and vegetables?

Imagine this scenario: A farmers market opens in a rural community that has been a food desert for nearly 20 years. The community is thrilled to finally have access to fresh and healthy foods - including a mother that loves the idea that she can provide quality produce to her small children.

Her excitement quickly fades when she realizes that the market does not accept benefits she receives through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She frequents the market when possible; however, she’s often forced to return to the nearby gas station mini-mart for her grocery needs.

This is a real situation for families across America. Many of the nearly 45 million Americans participating in the SNAP program are unable to use their benefits at many healthy fresh retailers such as farmers markets, farmstands, and roadside stands.

Belmont Farmer's Market

Belmont Farmer's Market, taken by Marc Smith

Similar to a credit or debit card, SNAP benefits are processed electronically, using an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) machine. The USDA currently offers free EBT machines to all retailers certified to accept SNAP benefits – but only those that have a telephone or electronic lines. Farmers markets, farmstands, or other healthy food retailers without telephone and electricity are required to purchase or rent their own equipment.Some states have raised funds to provide EBT machines to their farmers markets, and the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program provides grants to individual markets to get them; however, funds do not nearly come close to the demand.

Let's change that. The USDA can make a common sense, low-cost administrative change that would provide EBT machines free of charge to healthy fresh food retailers. This change would benefit farmers that are losing out on important sales and allow low-income customers to have access to healthier, more nutritious food options.

No one should be forced to buy unhealthy food for their family because the government makes it impossible to buy anything better.

Can you help us make this change?

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Take Action: Contact Secretary Vilsack

Use the tool below to contact U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and ask him to provide wireless electronic benefit transfer (EBT) machines free of charge to healthy fresh food retailers that do not have electricity or telephone lines.

Take action now!

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