Applying to be a SNAP retailer as a campus farmers market

Each UMass Student Farmer takes on leadership roles and in addition to managing donations, Al Driscoll is working with Dan Bensonoff of UMass Permaculture Initiative  to organize the UMass Student Farmers Market this fall. The market takes place on the South Pond Lawn for ten weeks every fall and three weeks each spring. It is a great resource for fresh produce and other local and student produced goods. To ensure the market is as accessible and inclusive as possible I was curious about what it takes to become a SNAP retailer.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal nutrition program that provides a monthly supplement for purchasing food to those who go through the application process and are eligible. SNAP benefits can sometimes act as a temporary “bandaid” for people who are food insecure. Becoming a SNAP retailer would allow the UMass Student Farm and UMass Permaculture to accept SNAP benefits as a form of payment for produce and other non value-added goods such as herbs and teas. Additionally, in Massachusetts there is an option to become a Healthy Incentives Program, aka HIP, authorized farm and/or vendor. In this program, those receiving SNAP benefits can receive an additional dollar for each dollar spent of fresh fruits or vegetables from  a HIP authorized farm or vendor. 

Al felt uncertain if becoming a SNAP retailer was something that he could do as a student and if the process would be beyond his reach. Luckily, it’s possible with a little bit of help! Al spoke with Mia at Communities Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) who set us up with the necessary webpage to begin applying.

Here’s what the process looks like:

  1. Apply for a SNAP permit! 

This can be done through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) one of two ways: 

Online: complete the application at                                                                                                http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/applicationprocess.htm 

*Paper application: Call FNS(toll-free) at 1-877-823-4369 and ask them to mail you an application 

We went with the online application. 

The initial application does require a point person to fill out their personal information, including a social security number. We recommend an employee who intends to stay with the farm/organization for an extended period of time* fill out this section. 

*Important to note when considering an organization like a student farmers market with many transient student leaders. 

The application also requires submission of the following three pieces of documentation: 

  1. a copy of a current license for your business (for example, a sales tax permit or health permit) 
  2. a copy of the farm owners driver’s license (both sides), passport, or other photo identification 
  3. a copy of the Social Security cards for all business owners, partners, officers, and shareholders, and their spouses If you use the online application, you must send copies of your documents to the FNS address on the form.

 If you use a paper application, sign the application and send it in with copies of your documents to the address on the form. 

Call the FNS office if you need help with the form. Massachusetts Field Office: 617-565-6380

2. The field office will notify you within 45 days of applying whether you are approved or denied a permit. 

3. Once you are approved to accept SNAP purchases you will need an EBT transaction machine. 

– If you already accept debit and credit card purchases, you can use the same machine for EBT cards! The FNS office will help you connect your equipment to the state EBT system. 

 – If you do not accept debit and credit card purchases, FNS will give you equipment necessary to accept EBT transactions. The equipment is free if you have a phone line and electricity. If you need wireless equipment then you will have to pay for it and the cost will vary. 

We have yet to make it beyond the first step the process but hope to continue to work towards becoming a SNAP retailer this fall! Stay tuned and come visit us at our first market 9/13 @ 12-4pm!

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Please reach out to studentfarm.enterprise@gmail.com if you’re interested in volunteering with the market and/or UMass Student Farm Food Access Initiative!

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