USDA helping farmers markets take food stamps

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The USDA is on a mission to help you eat better, that includes opening up farmers markets to people on food stamps.

Some local markets already take the cards, but they need their customers to grow.

The Market Square Farmers Market is a popular place to shop for produce.

Luke Anderson with Copper Ridge Farm said, "We are not selling any GMO food, we don't use any chemical pesticides or herbicides, and that we're not trucking it in from some other state."

The federal government is distributing $4-million to help farmers markets get online to take EBT cards.

This is actually the fourth year the Market Square farmers market has been taking the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) cards.

David Vandergriff with the Knox County Agriculture Extension said, "A person that has a SNAP benefit card comes to the location where the machine is at, they have their card swiped, and they can buy tokens for purchases at the market."

The USDA found fewer than a quarter of the nation's farmers markets are set up to take SNAP cards. Vandergriff said the hardest part is getting the machine that runs the cards, which is why the federal funds are meant to cover those costs.

Anderson said they've only had a few customers use their food stamps, but he's happy they have such a healthy option. "I'm especially glad that they can use their tokens to buy the plant starters because for the dollar value it's a lot more food," he said.

Vandergriff said, "I think more and more people are aware that they can use the SNAP benefits at the farmers market and they're taking advantage of it."

In Knox County, you can also use your EBT cards at the New Harvest Park Farmers Market.

Vandergriff hopes that if more people start using their cards, then other markets will get in on the federal program.

The USDA wants to help another 4,000 farmers markets take the EBT cards nationwide.

To find a Farmers Market near you, CLICK HERE.

For more information on Food Stamps in Tennessee,

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