Nine North Dakota farmers market vendors are taking part in a pilot program to let Supplemental Nutrition Assistance recipients use their benefits to buy locally-grown produce.
The vendors are Catherineâ€™s for Lamb, Cutbank Creek Garden, Elizabeth Eckert, Enders Farms, Prairie Produce, Ruso Ranch and North Star Farms, all located at North Prairie Farmers Market in Minot; Skyline Ranch Produce operating in Bismarck, Washburn, Hazen and Beulah; and Erbes Farm at the Great Plains Produce Association Farmers Market in Fargo.
The pilot program is a joint effort of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
â€œThe ability to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets makes fresh food available to people who did not have the option of buying food from farmers,â€ Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a statement. â€œNorth Dakota farmers in turn get access to a new market.â€
The Department of Human Services earmarked $10,000 to help vendors buy equipment to scan EBT cards. The state Ag Department also provided staff and funding for the pilot program.
Participating vendors must be approved by USDA Food and Nutrition Services. The booths of vendors accepting EBT cards will be identified with a â€œSNAP benefits welcome hereâ€ poster.
About $8 million in benefits are issued each month to North Dakotans to buy food. The program helps about 60,000 low-income North Dakotans. Almost half of the participants are children; many others are elderly or disabled.
Individuals can apply for the program at county social service offices.