In the midst of COVID-19, the Cartersville Farmers Market has expanded its reach with the acceptance of SNAP/EBT payments. According to the seasonal offering’s Facebook page, this new feature helps “ensure that customers from all economic backgrounds can afford to shop at their local market.”
“The market began accepting EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] payments at the market this summer so everyone would have access to local, fresh food,” said Cartersville Farmers Market Manager Regina Shaw, whose part-time position is funded jointly by Bartow County government and the city of Cartersville. “A customer can bring their EBT card to the welcome table and tell us how much they’d like to spend.
“We swipe the card, then we give them the total amount in wooden market tokens. They may use this ‘money’ to buy any product from participating vendors.”
The market’s tokens are offered in increments of $1 and $5. Formerly referred to as food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is federally-funded and supplies monthly assistance to low-income residents to help cover food costs.
“At the end of the day, the vendors will turn in their tokens and fill out a form to start the process for reimbursement,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “Eligible vendors will display signs at their tents to let the public know they are accepting tokens.
“SNAP eligible foods include bread products, honey, canned foods, fruit/vegetable produce, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, seeds and plants, which produce food to eat. The SNAP/EBT program supports our primary mission at the farmers market, which is to improve health outcomes in Bartow County by increasing access to locally-grown fruits, vegetables and other farm fresh products.”
Through Sept. 26, the Cartersville Farmers Market is operating from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday at Founder’s Oak parking lot, 10 N. Public Square. Featuring a total of 37 approved vendors, Pugliese previously noted the summer staple is serving as an “open-air grocery store” due to COVID-19.
“Being able to accept EBT payments at the farmers market complements our UGA SNAP-Education program, which focuses on nutrition promotion and obesity prevention,” Pugliese said. “The goal of SNAP-Education is to improve the likelihood that SNAP-eligible families will make healthy food and lifestyle choices while cooking delicious meals on a budget.
“In light of recent events, the need for these types of programs is greater than ever before. More people are cooking from home now and household food budgets are strained. This fall, we will be expanding access to our SNAP-Education programs through virtual learning opportunities in order to adapt to safety concerns surrounding traditional face-to-face programming.”
Launched in the early 1980s, the Cartersville Farmers Market was spearheaded by the late Bartow County Extension Agent Walter Culverhouse to help local farmers sell excess produce.
“Right now we have about 34 vendors each weekend,” Shaw said. “We have pasture-raised meat, farm-fresh eggs, locally-grown produce, fresh-cut flowers, plants, baked goods, salsa, pimento cheese, Georgia coast seafood, local honey and lots more. Most of these products will still be available through August and September except for some of the seasonal produce.”
To bolster its SNAP/EBT component, the Cartersville Farmers Market will be eligible to pursue grant funding next year.
“Unfortunately, we were delayed in getting the SNAP/EBT payment system setup due to having to redirect our time and attention to COVID-19 safety concerns at the farmers market,” Pugliese said. “In the future, we would like to pursue grant opportunities to support and expand access to SNAP/EBT at the market.
“Certain grants require us to have an established SNAP/EBT payment system for at least one season before we would be eligible to apply. There are several grants that could potentially help with promotion of the EBT program and matching SNAP dollars spent at the farmers market.”