Reporting Chris Simon
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Human Services will consider Friday how to best use recently received Federal money to put more fresh produce on the tables of the state’s food stamp recipients.
From Burnsville to Bemidji and St Paul to St. Cloud, the state’s needy are finding that they can use their SNAP cards at a growing list of Farmer’s markets. However, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says so far, the list has been limited to 26 farmers markets statewide due to the cost of the POS machines used to swipe the SNAP cards.
She wants to use most of the money to put those machines into the hands of more farmers.
“The easier we can make it work, the better people are going to have access to fresh and healthy food. And it helps the farmers too, but these machines cost about one thousand dollars each,” Jesson told WCCO Radio.
Up until now, a complicated token system has been in place since many farmers can’t afford the SNAP card readers but see the value in being part of the system. A SNAP card holder would go to a central pay point at the market and swipe his card in return for an equivalent amount of tokens that can be used only for fruit and vegetables at the market.
The farmers would then exchange the tokens for cash later on. The point-of-sale machines automatically credits the farmer’s bank accounts, much like a credit card point-of-sale machine.
“I think the reason farmer’s markets are interested in it, (SNAP program) is because people are using their SNAP benefits at farmers markets,” said Jesson.
It’s hoped that by summers end, $84,000 of federal money will be used for buying more SNAP card readers, training vendors how to use them and getting them to market.