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Purdue Extension: Expert Resources for COVID-19
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AGRICULTURE: Working with Food-Purchasing Assistance Programs

May 12, 2020
Vegetables on table at Farmer's Market

Local farmers are designated among those providing essential operations in a stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can still sell products — through a farmers’ market, a series of alternative delivery methods or through other outlets.

Many people across Indiana and the United States have experienced unemployment or occupational hardships related to COVID-19’s economic disruption. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that the U.S. unemployment rate hit 4.4 percent in March. By April 10, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said nearly 37.5 million people were using its food-purchasing assistance programs.

Adding the ability to accept purchases through these programs may seem cumbersome to local farmers, especially in challenging times. However, equipping your business to accept such purchases is a straightforward process — and in doing so, you can cultivate an additional market of customers and be a lifeline to those struggling with food security.

This article outlines the following:

 

Definitions of Common Food-Purchasing Assistance Programs

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the following food-purchasing assistance programs:

SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need so they can purchase healthy foods and move toward self-sufficiency.

WIC provides federal grants to states that help provide supplemental foods for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women — as well as infants and children up to age 5 that are found to be at nutritional risk.

 

Applying to Accept SNAP Purchases

Before a farmers’ market can apply to accept SNAP purchases, the market master must create a USDA account. (Individual vendors and farmers submitting applications must be direct-market farmers, such as those in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) franchise.)

An online form must then be completed and submitted — along with supporting documentation — within 30 days of creating the account.

To apply to accept SNAP purchases, market masters must provide the following:

The following products can be purchased using SNAP:

SNAP currently cannot be used to pay for online orders; however, this can be mitigated by accepting SNAP onsite.

Market masters who have additional questions about SNAP acceptance should visit the Food and Nutrition Service website or email the FNS.

 

Applying to Accept WIC Purchases

The WIC application process is separate from SNAP, and instructions can be found here.

Where SNAP applications fall to a farmers’ market master, applications to accept WIC purchases can be made by markets and farmers.

WIC items that can be purchased with market vouchers include:

Farmers seeking to be approved must:

Markets seeking to be approved must:

WIC cannot be used to pay for online orders; however, one could order online from a grower or market and then pay in person upon pickup or delivery.

Those with further questions about WIC acceptance should visit the Food and Nutrition Service’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program websit

 

Food Safety / Handling Standards

Along with adhering to best practices in food safety and food handling, you should undertake additional measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19:

 

Authors:

Laurynn Thieme, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Delaware County

Lindsey Cox, Community Wellness Coordinator, Purdue Extension – Delaware & Blackford Counties

Jeff Pell, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Hendricks Count 

Shelly Shrock, Shrock Family Farm, Selma, Ind. (Delaware County)

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