Feds Dish Out $4 Million to Increase Food Stamp Usage at Farmers Markets

By Elizabeth Harrington | May 2, 2013 | 3:06pm EDT

(AP Image)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is spending $4 million to increase the use of food stamps at farmers markets, claiming it is beneficial to the economy.

As a record one-out-of-five households are on the benefit, the USDA says allowing food stamp use at farmers markets is a “win-win-win situation.”

The USDA said recipients of the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) “get increased access to healthier and fresher foods,” farmers markets increase their customer base and sales, and it “encourages consumption of locally-grown food.”

The $4-million outreach is part of a two-year project that expires Sept. 20, 2013.  With the funds, farmers markets can purchase equipment to accept EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards and wireless access in order to operate the equipment.

Already, there are 2,091 farmers markets that accept food stamps, as of April 16.

Farmers' markets are among the elements of the "sustainable communities" advocated by the Obama administration. (AP Photo)

“These grants increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to SNAP customers and further encourage them to purchase and prepare healthy foods for their families using SNAP benefits,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon in a press release.

Concannon also argued that the program is good for the economy, claiming 20 cents of every food stamp dollar spent “ends up in the pocket of American farmers.” The food stamps themselves are initially paid for with money taken from taxpayers and redistributed by Congress through the USDA.

“Installing wireless technology at farmers markets expands the customer base for markets and increases the share of the SNAP dollar that goes directly back to local farmers and into local economies,” he said.

The USDA said expanding food stamp access to farmers markets has been “a priority in recent years.”

A record 47,692,896 Americans are now enrolled in the program, and the federal government spent a record $80.4 billion on food stamps in fiscal year 2012.

Food stamps have grown rapidly during the presidency of Barack Obama, adding approximately 11,269 recipients per day between January 2009 and November 2012.

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