Since 1999, farmer’s markets across Washington have accepted EBT food benefits. The Puyallup Farmer’s Market is now joining that group.
Now those using EBT food benefits can bring home fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and more to their families.
Typically, households use their EBT cards at local grocery stores, but now the market provides one more option to purchase food.
Households may use EBT food benefits to buy items such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry and dairy products, David Stillman, assistant secretary of the Economic Services Administration, said in an email.
“They also may purchase seeds and plants to produce food for the household to eat,” he said.
Nearly one out of every four Washington residents turns to the Economic Services Administration in the Department of Social and Health Services for assistance with cash, food, child support, child care, disability determination, transition to employment and other services. In 2013, ESA served more than 1.5 million people — representing approximately 22 percent of all Washington state residents.
“Farmer’s markets enhance our clients’ access to locally grown, fresh healthy fruits and vegetables and other food items,” Stillman said. “Purchases there help support Washington’s local farms and growers.”
Puyallup Farmer’s Market officials say the move to accept EBT cards will add at least 100 shoppers a day.
“It’s been something the community has been asking about for a really long time, and we finally have the tools this year to go ahead and provide that for them,” said Brittany Brown, the market’s manager.
Feedback received from those in the community so far has been nothing but positive, Brown said.
“People are very, very excited,” she said. “People who hadn’t liked us on Facebook yet or followed us on Instagram are commenting about how excited they are to be able to use food stamps at the market.”
Shoppers who use their EBT card aren’t the only ones excited about the change; farmers selling their produce and meats are looking forward to the opportunity to provide their goods to as many people as they can.
“They want their food to be in all households, no matter the income level,” Brown said. “They want everybody to eat their healthy, fresh, picked-that-day produce. They are excited that this is an opportunity to get their products into all homes — not just people who make over a certain amount of money each year.”
While accepting EBT has meant lots of paperwork and back-and-forth phone calls with state officials, the market was able to arrange for the state pay for the machine used to swipe EBT cards at the information desk. The market is also taking on some of the cost, however. It is charged 15 cents per swipe as well as a percentage of each purchase.
In order to utilize the new process, EBT card holders visit the information desk and tell a staff member the amount they want to spend at the market. They will then be given tokens to spend at vendors that accept EBT.
“That way, the money is separated to where we know the percentage spent by EBT,” Brown said.
Market officials say they are hopeful to continue accepting EBT at the market for many years to come.
“When the market ended last year, I made it my mission to accept EBT at the market,” Brown said. “ I’ve received phone calls and emails just thanking me. It’s the best and most humbling feeling in the world to have these families call me to let me know that they are so thankful now they can use the food stamps some where else other than the grocery store. Now they have another option.”
The Puyallup Farmer’s Market is located in Pioneer Park and the Pioneer Park Pavillion, 330 South Meridian. The market opens April 18 and runs through mid October. It’s open Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.