Farmer's Market now accepting food stamps

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Slow Food Pittsburgh's Saturday Farmers@Firehouse market in the Strip District is accepting food stamps -- that is, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits, using a new wireless card reader to do the electronic benefits transfer, or EBT.

The device, acquired for free from the state Department of Agriculture via a federal grant program, also allows shoppers to pay with debit card.

Actually, they swipe their cards to pay for wooden tokens worth $5 each, and are asked to contribute $1 per transaction. Users can receive cash change on purchases.

SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to buy $1 tokens and pay no surcharge.

The tokens are being accepted by most of the vendors, who are repaid by the market.

Farmers@Firehouse is the first in Allegheny County to accept EBT cards market-wide, says market manager Emily Schmidlapp. But she's working with Just Harvest to bring other markets online, starting with the seven Citiparks markets.

She has other plans for expanding and improving the program, too, such as seeking sponsors to subsidize a "double value" plan for EBT users, which would give them $2 worth of produce for every $1 in benefits they spend.

For her, it's about growing the access to fresh, local, healthful food. "It's not 'good food for those who can afford it,' " she says. "It's for everyone."


Bob Batz Jr.: or 412-263-1930.


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