June 16, 2024


Health Can Do

Food Assistance Programs at Farmers Markets

Food Assistance Programs at Farmers Markets

Many farmers markets offer food assistance programs, making farmers markets more affordable options for communities. Learn more about how to use SNAP at farmers markets.

Unfortunately, many Americans are food insecure (more than 10%), and do not have access to a variety of fresh, healthy food choices that match their cultural and personal food preferences. One way that Americans are able to fight hunger is by applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  This food assistance program provides forty-five million Americans with monthly benefits that can be used to purchase groceries and reduce the amount of food insecurity the household is experiencing. The good news is that SNAP dollars may be used at local farmer markets as a way to enable families have access to fresh, locally grown produce.

Burrito with Refried Beans and Corn

What is SNAP?

SNAP is one of the USDA’s food assistance programs that can help families move away from hunger and food insecurity. Individuals who meet the requirements for SNAP can apply in the state they currently live in. The number of people that are living in your household, your monthly income, and number of resources you have determine the maximum monthly allotment that you may receive.  

Households that receive SNAP benefits are allowed to purchase fruit, vegetables, dairy products, breads, cereals, meat, fish, and poultry at grocery stores that take SNAP benefits. Individuals are not allowed to purchase alcohol, nutrition supplements, ready-to-eat prepackaged foods, or pet food with SNAP benefits. These rules were established to encourage households to reach for more healthful options. In the past few years, SNAP participants have been allowed to use their funds at local farmers markets.  

Green and Gold Brown Rice Salad

SNAP at Farmers Markets 

Being able to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets has enabled more fresh, locally grown produce to be purchased by more households. In 2017, twenty-four million SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers markets across the U.S. Although this number only makes up about one percent of redeemed benefits from participants, more and more individuals on SNAP are traveling to their local farmers market to purchase produce, build relationships with farmers, and learn where food comes from.  

Golden Turmeric Hemp Granola

Double Dollar Benefits 

When SNAP participants use their benefits at the market, they can receive double dollar tokens.  These tokens are a reward for spending money at the market. Individuals can receive up to twenty dollars in matched funds that can be used to purchase more produce at the market.  

Grilled Peaches with Basil

Benefits of SNAP Approved Markets 

Participants who use their benefits at farmers markets are able to enjoy locally grown produce that is delicious and nutritious. Also, it allows members to learn more about what produce is in season, how farmers produce food, and the variety of produce that is available to enjoy. Not to mention that this program helps families have access to nutrient-rich foods that may help fill in any nutrient gaps in their current diet. Plus, the benefit of connecting with community and the local food system is promising! 

To learn more about local foods, check out these other blogs:

Making Local Foods Affordable
5 Benefits for Eating Local
The Many Benefits of Learning How to Grow Your Own Food

Written by Michelle Naragon, dietetic intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN 



Bolen, E.  (2020).  SNAP Boosts Retailers and Local Economies.  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/snap-boosts-retailers-and-local-economies

N.A. (2021).  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Farmers Market Coalition.  https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/advocacy/snap/

N.A.  (2021).  What Can SNAP Buy?  USDA.  https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items