For Marando Farms' Chelsea Marando, access to fresh fruits and vegetables should be a basic right, regardless of income.
"When someone goes from making money to losing their job, they get concerned about how they're going to feed their family," she says. "Whatever your situation is, we want to give everyone an opportunity to have access to fresh foods."
Florida is one step closer to fulfilling Marando's belief with House Bill 103, passed earlier this month, which allows people to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards, known as SNAP, in farmers' markets across the state.
District 13 Rep. Reggie Fullwood and District 108 Rep. Daphne D. Campbell sponsored the bill. They both believe in expanding access to fresh produce across income levels.
"Say you own a farmers' market," Campbell says. "In the past, it's been really difficult to conduct transfers with an electronic card. Now it's going to make things more open and flexible to those who own markets and those who want to buy from markets."
According to the bill, owners and operators of open-air markets, like community farmers' markets or flea markets, will be able to allow food and nutrition service groups or third-party organizations to help implement electronic benefits transfer systems, making the use of SNAP, electronic benefit cards or EBT, and any other electronic card, like a debit or credit card, possible.
"Say you own or sell in a farmers' market," Campbell says. "Most of these people didn't have the opportunity to accept any sort of electronic card. Now, you'll be able to. It's facilitating people to do business and have access to fresh produce."
Though HB 103 is now law, farmers' markets are not mandated to implement electronic benefits, like SNAP, EBT, or even credit or debit cards. Campbell says the decision lies with farmers or market operators.
"It's open to everyone, but it's not an obligation," she says. "It's just meant to let people sell and buy fresh food without the hassle."
The law goes into effect on July 1, but many local farmers' market operators and vendors haven't received any information on it yet.
"I wouldn't know how to take [a SNAP card]," says Jesse Goldfinger, owner of Woolbright Farmers' Market in Boynton Beach. "Hopefully it's something we can take. If more people can spend money here and access fresh food, that sounds like a great thing. But I haven't heard anything about this yet, and I haven't had anyone try to purchase something with a SNAP card either."
Jason Hershin, former owner of Coral Springs Green Market, says he had heard of implementing SNAP but didn't force his vendors to accept it.
"We're not really set up for that kind of business," he says. "Corporate stores are, but I can't make them take it. Either way, I haven't gotten any information on how exactly it works."
For more than five years, Marando Farms has accepted SNAP and EBT cards, but Marando says it was because of her own initiative.
"People have to take the first step and explore it themselves," she says. "Yeah, it's a bit more work, but once you get the hang of how it works, it gets easy. I get reimbursed in about 30 days. It's really that easy.
"It's an amazing program, and you’re going to reach a larger customer base," she says. "Isn't the whole point of selling fresh produce to give people access?"
The implementation of HB 103 varies. Call your local market to ask if SNAP and EBT cards are accepted.
Marando Farms is located at 1401 SW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-294-2331, or visit marandofarms.com. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Woolbright Farmers' Market is located at 141 Woolbright Road, Boynton Beach. Call 561-732-2454, or visit produceandplants.com. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
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