EBT Access at Farmers’ Markets

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Recipients of public food support often find it difficult to access fresh, healthy produce options, especially if they live in a food desert, and even more so at farmers’ markets, where systems are not in place to comply with Federal regulations. HFPW believes this is a problem the Houston region should solve. We can optimize the benefits of public funds for these families while also supporting local farms.

Across the country, local governments or nonprofit entities have simplified the process for recipients of food benefits, such as the WIC program, to buy local, fresh produce. However, the systems tend to be fairly complicated for the farmers’ market manager. The City of Houston established a pilot program in 2012 with USDA assistance at its three farmers’ markets at Multi-Purpose Centers.

We hope to spread lessons from this effort and pursue efforts to spread such programs to all farmers markets and other fresh produce outlets in the Houston region. This group will produce a report recommending best practices, a regional proposal, and complimentary efforts, such as working with the Food Bank to provide maps and education to benefit recipients. Various efforts such as the Boston Bucks and the Market Umbrella in New Orleans provide inspiration. This group may advocate for local or statewide policy actions to that end.