Farmers market customers who receive supplemental nutrition assistance under California’s CalFresh program can use their EBT cards (which replaced food stamps in 2003) to purchase tokens at the market to buy fresh local produce, meats, fish, poultry, breads and dairy products.
A point-of-sale device will be set up at the market manager’s booth to issue the tokens. How it works: The customer selects an amount to spend, and the card is then swiped to debit that amount from the card’s balance. Tokens are given, and the amount is automatically transferred to the market’s bank account.
With tokens in hand, the customer can shop Cambria Farmers Market’s wide array of healthy, locally sourced foods and other eligible food products. At the end of the market day, vendors trade the tokens for payment from the market. The customer can return unused tokens for credit or hold them for future use.
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When EBT cards were introduced, farmers markets, and the farmers they serve, were “left out of the loop,” according to the Ecology Center of Berkeley, the organization that worked with state and federal agencies to pilot the farmers market point-of-sale program. The Ecology Center has helped hundreds of markets across the state to identify barriers to the EBT program and has added more than 300 farmers markets, including Cambria’s, to its roster.
CalFresh serves more than 4 million clients with nearly $8 billion in federal nutrition benefits. Offering EBT access not only encourages CalFresh customers to make healthy food choices, but it also supports local farmers and creates a thriving marketplace for community agriculture. Fliers in English and Spanish are going out communitywide.
“This is an exciting step for Cambria Farmers Market,” said Jeff Nielsen, market manager. “Adding EBT access is our way of saying this farmers market is for everyone.”
Cambria Farmers Market is open from 2:30 to 5 p.m. every Friday in the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building parking lot. The market is sponsored by the Cambria Lions Club.