The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont) has been awarded a three-year $247,000 grant from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  With this funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Farmers Market Support Grants, NOFA-VT will work to increase SNAP accessibility and participation at Vermont’s farmers markets, and to support the establishment, expansion, and promotion of SNAP services, known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT, at farmers markets.

“This grant will expand NOFA-VT’s capacity to support limited-income Vermonters to access organic and local foods at farmers markets while strengthening the economic viability of Vermont’s farms,” said NOFA-VT’s Erin Buckwalter, manager of programs to support direct markets and increase community food access at the organization.

NOFA-VT has worked for nine years with farmers markets to establish and support programs to accept 3SquaresVT benefits, supporting the use of EBT cards in order to increase access to local foods for recipients of 3SquaresVT benefits. From just three markets in 2008, NOFA-VT currently supports 46 farmers market locations statewide that accept 3SquaresVT benefits. This new funding from the USDA will allow NOFA-VT to continue to provide support to farmers markets in Vermont that want to expand food access in their communities by accepting EBT cards.

In addition to supporting markets with much-needed funds, NOFA-VT will conduct a sustained consumer awareness campaign to increase 3SquaresVT participation at Vermont farmers markets.  Research has found that key reasons why low-income shoppers do not use farmers markets are because they are unaware of the day, time and location of the markets. To overcome this barrier, this project will use a wide variety of approaches—from direct mailings, face-to-face interactions in market communities, and engagement with service providers—to raise awareness of the accessibility of EBT at Vermont markets and ultimately engage low-income shoppers in frequent participation at farmers markets.