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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly the Food Stamp Program) is the Nation’s largest nutritional assistance program and the cornerstone of Federal Government efforts to alleviate hunger in the United States and its territories. SNAP benefits are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). They are issued by individual States and redeemable at any authorized FNS SNAP retailer, which includes an increasing number of farmers markets. SNAP benefits are accessed via an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that is processed using electronic funds transfer technology. EBT cards look and operate like bank-issued debit cards. SNAP benefits are accessed by swiping the EBT card on a point-of-sale (POS) terminal at an FNS retailer location and entering a personal identification number (PIN). FNS SNAP retailers can either use EBT-only machines, which look like standard commercial POS terminals and are provided for free by FNS, or supply their own terminals. EBT-only machines require electricity and a phone line connection, and accepts only EBT cards. Many FNS SNAP retailers choose to pay for commercial POS terminals that accept EBT, debit, and credit cards on the same machine. Electrical hookups and phone line connections are not available at many farmers market sites, preventing the use of the free EBT-only machines. Even when market managers and vendors are willing and able to invest in wireless POS terminals, the technology can be difficult to manage and promote at farmers markets. Operating an EBT machine requires an FNS license. FNS allows markets to obtain a single FNS license for all eligible vendors at the market. SNAP benefits are redeemed using one centrally located POS terminal; transactions are processed throughout the farmers markets using scrip (paper certificates, tokens, or receipts). SNAP customers redeem their benefits by swiping their EBT cards at the POS terminal in exchange for scrip, which they can use to buy eligible food products. This process is similar to one sometimes used for accepting credit and debit cards at farmers markets. While it is possible for individual vendors to have their own FNS license and POS terminal, scrip projects are the most common way for farmers markets to accept SNAP benefits. This handbook is a how-to guide for accepting SNAP benefits at farmers markets. Topics include why to accept SNAP benefits, how to install EBT systems at farmers markets, how to use scrip projects to accept SNAP benefits at farmers markets, how to become an FNS snap retailer, what equipment is required to accept SNAP benefits at farmers markets, and how to make SNAP EBT succeed at farmers markets.


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