In this Q&A conducted by FSNYC's Ed Yowell, we asked Michael Hurwitz, Director of New York City's Greenmarket
, which runs 53 markets throughout the five boroughs, about EBT usage at farmers' markets
in the city. This interview supplements the article Farm Bill 1.06 about SNAP benefits and the Farm Bill.
It seems that getting people to use their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets is a bit of an uphill climb. Why does it seem so difficult?
I would actually argue the opposite, that in five years we’ve seen our EBT sales numbers at market explode. (Note, SNAP acceptance at Greenmarket has increased from three markets in 2005 to 43 markets in 2010 and the value of SNAP sales has increased from about $14,000 in 2006 to more than $500,000 in 2010.) We have had a 90% increase in new (SNAP) EBT (debit card) users at market per year. I think any industry would covet these numbers, particularly in this economy. While this may be uphill, we’re sprinting up that hill. (See http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ebt/history.)
These numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story, for even if NYC farmers’ markets earn $1 million in SNAP sales in 2011, that is less than a percent of total available SNAP dollars in the city. I think the challenges that remain include markets are mostly open one day per week, have limited hours due to upstate farmers needing to get home, are seasonal by nature, don’t carry every product such as tropicals, rice, and toilet paper and are less convenient, if (shopping) time is the factor.