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Temporary fix saves SNAP use at farmers markets

Dave Sommerstein

Food stamp programs at New York farmers markets have a new lifeline. A national farmers market group is stepping in with a cash infusion to keep food stamps working across the state.

The company behind the software that turns food stamps, also known as SNAP benefits, into the wooden tokens accepted at the market, abruptly announced it would be going out of business at the end of the month.

Phil Blalock of the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs says the financial boost is not a permanent fix, but it gives farmers markets time to figure out how to keep accepting food stamps as payment.

“What we have done is bought time for the people that are existing on this service and said please keep it open until we can find a longer alternative,” Blalock said.

Novo Dia’s software is the only way markets have to convert electronic food stamps to handheld currency that can work at stalls that don’t have internet access. It’s essential at 500 markets across the state.

Margaret O’Neill, who runs the SNAP program at a market in Rochester, said people who use their SNAP benefits at farmers markets shouldn’t worry.

“They absolutely will not see any change in their service through the rest of July, through all of August,” she said, "and I am completely confident that there will be a longer term solution in place by the time we hit September.”

O’Neill said the New York farmers’ market federation is working with national partners on a more permanent way to keep accepting food stamps.

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