Snap and EBT Cards now accepted

The Concord Insider-
Program aims at making fresh fruits and veggies available to all and you get to use sweet tokens!
The Winter Farmers’ Market at Cole Gardens is now turning SNAP/EBT funds into tokens thanks to a new program.


Don’t you hate when all you have is your card to pay for things?

Especially when what you want most in the world at that moment is only a dollar or two. The worst is when it comes at a farmers’ market, because even when they do take cards, it ends up costing the farmers.

Well, there’s good news coming out of the Winter Farmers’ Market at Cole Gardens. And it’s not just for credit and debit card users. It’s also for those who rely on government assistance to pay for the staples of their diet.

Wait, you haven’t heard the lowdown? Well then let’s catch you up to speed.

Last Saturday, a processing terminal was introduced at the market that could change the landscape of fresh food purchases. It almost ranks up there with the invention of the automobile.

The terminal accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, as well as credit and debit cards. Now just about everyone in the area can enjoy those locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic meat and home baked breads.

“They can just ring up their card once and receive tokens,” said Charlie Cole, owner of Cole Gardens.

SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, electronically puts funds on an EBT card each month for families with low to no income. The goal of the program is for those families to use that assistance to better balance their diets.

“Right now, a lot of the money is spent on processed foods, and it’s because of the access to it,” said Catie Blakeman, local food intern for the Merrimack County Conservation District. “So any amount of people that come and use their SNAP/EBT funds would be a success.”

Vendors at farmers’ markets used to accept paper food stamps, but since they were eliminated years ago in favor of the card, there has been no way for farmers to process the EBT cards. This program is looking to change that.

“It’s about providing access to local and healthy foods,” said Stacy Luke, District Manager for the conservation district.

It has already been well received at farmers’ markets in the Seacoast area and Cheshire County, and the same is expected for the market at Cole Gardens. Cole agreed to be the guinea pig for the Merrimack County Conservation District.

“We figured we’d give it a trial run to see how it goes,” said Cole.

While many vendors have the capability to accept credit and debit cards, it can be costly with a fee per transaction – and time-consuming. So this will not only benefit the consumers, but the vendors as well.

“It’s helpful for the vendors because we’re incurring the processing fees,” said Luke.

This is how it will work – shoppers can visit the terminal upon their arrival at Coles, choose an amount and swipe their cards.

“On a busy market day to stop and run a credit card takes some time,” said Cole. “This way, you can just do it once and go through the market and use the tokens like cash.”

SNAP/EBT users will receive $1 tokens, while credit and debit card users will get $5 tokens. The tokens can be used at any vendor, who will turn in the tokens at the end of the day for payment.

Change will be given for the $5 tokens used by debit and credit card users, but no change will be given to the SNAP/EBT users. That’s why the $1 tokens were created, so individuals are not forced to spend a large amount at each vendor. SNAP/EBT will only be able to purchase things allowed under the plan, so that means no prepared foods.

After the conclusion of the winter market, the hope is to institute the program at both the Concord and Penacook summer markets.

“The goal is just to try and provide greater access to all residents in the greater Concord area,” said Luke.

The Winter Farmers’ Market at Cole Gardens is open each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through April 12.

Thanks Tim for writing a great article this week.