Key Takeaways

  • If you get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP assistance, you can use your benefits at farmers markets to buy eligible food items.

  • Although there are different methods for accepting SNAP payments, using your EBT card at farmers markets is usually straightforward.

  • If you don’t currently receive SNAP benefits, finding out if you qualify is fast, simple, and worthwhile.

You may already know that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can be used at grocery stores to buy healthy food. But did you know you can also use SNAP dollars at your local farmers market?

For people who get SNAP assistance, local farmers markets are a good place to get nutritious foods, support the local economy, and meet new people. Plus, the market near you may even give you a little extra to spend. To find a farmers market in your area, including those that accept SNAP, visit the National Farmers Market Directory.

What can I buy with SNAP benefits?

Nearly everything at farmers markets is covered by your SNAP benefits, except for a few items—like fresh flowers, hot prepared meals, and handmade soap. For example, FRESHFARM Markets in Arlington, VA, features vendors selling everything from fresh meats, poultry, fruits, and vegetables to bread, handmade pasta, cheese, and more. Generally speaking, all of these items can be purchased with your SNAP EBT card.

For a complete list of what you can and cannot buy with your EBT card, check out our comprehensive guide. All in all, farmers markets are a great grocery-store substitute for SNAP recipients because they offer nothing but fresh, local foods. They’re a one-stop shop for everything you need to fill your fridge.

Making purchases at a farmers market with SNAP

When you arrive at your local farmers market, look for an information table, and tell the person at the table you’d like to use your SNAP dollars to buy food. The person will need to swipe your EBT card—so make sure you have it handy—and then they’ll give you tokens to use (also referred to as scrip). You’ll typically receive one token for every SNAP dollar you want to spend. The tokens never expire—so don’t worry if you end up taking out too many—but they cannot be exchanged.

While many farmers markets use a token system, others might employ other payment methods. One is an alternative receipt system where you shop first, get a receipt for items you want to buy, and then pay for your goods with your EBT card. At some farmers markets, individual vendors accept EBT cards right at their booth—all you need to do is swipe your card in a machine.

How to double your SNAP dollars at farmers markets

Some farmers markets, like FRESHFARM Markets, even have what’s called a Match Incentive Program. This means the market will match every dollar you spend, up to a maximum amount of $10. For example, you may be able to take home $20 worth of goods for only $10 of your own SNAP dollars. Not all farmers markets participate in a matching program, so contact one near you first to see if they offer it.

Get the most out of your SNAP dollars

You have quite a bit of freedom on how to spend your SNAP benefits at the farmer’s market and at the grocery store. One way to make the most of your grocery budget is to plan your meals before you shop. Make a list of everything you need to prepare those meals, along with other essentials like healthy snacks. Having a list helps ensure you don’t forget to buy something—and it will keep you from buying items you don’t need.

What is SNAP and how do I apply?

SNAP is a federal program that helps individuals and families buy the food they need to stay healthy. It can be a valuable tool for older adults who struggle to put enough food on their table.

One example is Pamela, age 70. She suffers from numerous health complications and can no longer work. Her only source of income is her small Social Security payment. After discovering she was eligible for SNAP assistance, Pamela was relieved.

The past year has been so hard for me with my health and my finances," she told NCOA. "This will help my stress a little."

Could you be eligible for SNAP assistance? It’s easy to find out with our online benefits screening tool. Just enter your zip code to get started. If you do qualify, we’ll provide all the information you need to apply for SNAP benefits.

Learn more about using SNAP at farmers markets by watching the video below.