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Published September 01, 2010, 09:08 AM

Farmers markets accept SNAP benefits in pilot program

BISMARCK – Nine North Dakota farmers market vendors are taking part in a pilot program to let Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients use their benefits to buy locally grown produce.

BISMARCK – Nine North Dakota farmers market vendors are taking part in a pilot program to let Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients use their benefits to buy locally grown produce.

The vendors are Catherine's for Lamb, Cutbank Creek Garden, Elizabeth Eckert, Enders Farms, Prairie Produce, Ruso Ranch, and North Star Farms all located at North Prairie Farmers Market in Minot; Skyline Ranch Produce operating in Bismarck, Washburn, Hazen and Beulah, and Erbes Farm at the Great Plains Produce Association Farmers Market in Fargo.

The pilot program is a joint effort of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) and the North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS).

“The ability to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets makes fresh food available to people who did not have the option of buying food from farmers,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “North Dakota farmers in turn get access to a new market.”

DHS earmarked $10,000 to help vendors buy equipment to scan the debit cards (called EBT cards) that SNAP clients use to pay for food. NDDA also provided staff and funding for the pilot program.

“We are pleased to partner with the Agriculture Department and local farmers markets to help low-income North Dakotans buy fresh produce and North Dakota food products,” said Arlene Dura, director of the SNAP program for DHS.

Participating vendors must first be approved by USDA Food and Nutrition Services. The booths of vendors accepting EBT cards will be identified with a “SNAP benefits welcome here” poster similar to those at supermarket check-outs.

About $8 million in SNAP benefits are issued each month to qualifying North Dakotans to buy food from more than 450 grocers and other retailers. The program helps about 60,000 low-income North Dakotans pay for food. Almost half of the participants are children; many others are elderly or disabled.

Individuals can apply for the SNAP program at county social service offices.

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