Food stamps cut at Point Reyes Farmers Market

08/02/2018

Facing new federal requirements to disclose the personal information of one of its members, the Point Reyes Farmers Market steering committee decided to no longer accept electronic benefit, or E.B.T., cards, after five years of participating in the food benefits program. New standards under the United States Department of Agriculture require the market’s volunteer steering committee to provide the personal information, such as social security and driver’s license numbers, of one member. That was something none of the nine members wanted to do, said Allison Puglisi, the committee’s treasurer. “Facing mounting obstacles, the steering committee undertook a review of previous years’ E.B.T. usage and found that the program was seldom used. At that point, the difficult decision was made to end the pursuit of E.B.T.,” market manager Elizabeth Hollis wrote in an email. The E.B.T. system enables the state to issue food and cash benefits distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, via a magnetically encoded payment card. The average monthly payout is $125 per participant, according to the U.S.D.A. Though the recent change in federal requirements may have affected other small markets with nonprofit sponsors such as hers, Ms. Puglisi said she didn’t think the effects of their E.B.T. participation were widespread. Complications may be in the works for food benefits nationwide. President Trump’s 2019 budget would slash SNAP by nearly 30 percent over the next 10 years by restructuring how benefits are delivered and narrowing eligibility requirements. Ms. Hollis noted that the market still accepts coupons for WIC—a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children—and a senior farmers market nutrition program. She encouraged anyone affected by the termination of the E.B.T. program “to speak with us as we continue to explore opportunities to serve the community.”