Orange County

Nonprofit offers temporary fix to food-stamps shutdown at farmers markets

Anna Sullivan, right, helps a customer at the Durham Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. The women work for Lyon Farms in Creedmoor, which is a participant in the farmer’s market Double Bucks program benefiting low-income residents.
Anna Sullivan, right, helps a customer at the Durham Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. The women work for Lyon Farms in Creedmoor, which is a participant in the farmer’s market Double Bucks program benefiting low-income residents. tgrubb@newsobserver.com

A nonprofit group will help farmers markets keep their food-stamp benefits programs running another month, while the federal government finds a long-term solution.

The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) will help Novo Dia Group stay open through August to continue processing federal nutrition electronic benefits including SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“We are extremely grateful to NAFMNP for their continued support. This will not only avoid any immediate disruption of service, but also allows additional time to explore avenues for a long-term sustainable solution,” Novo Dia President Josh Wiles said.

Novo Dia provides the equipment to farmers and markets for processing SNAP payments. The company was expected to close July 31, potentially disrupting over 1,700 farmers markets, including in Durham and Chapel Hill, and an unknown number of individual farmers who also accept SNAP dollars.

NAFMNP is a nonprofit founded in 1992 that represents 45,000 farmers and 8,000 farmers markets across the country. The group worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 to provide farmers and markets with MarketLink, a no cost or low-cost SNAP processing system.

The goal was to provide low-income consumers with more fresh, local produce and expand the consumer market for farmers.

Farmer’s Market Coalition took over the government contract in 2014 and hired Novo Dia, which operates the Mobile Market+ processing system. A new contractor, Financial Transaction Management, got the contract this spring and is replacing Novo Dia with its own provider. That system has not yet been put into place, creating the potential for a gap in services and the loss of millions of dollars in sales.

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The government is continuing to seek a long-term solution, NAFMNP executive director Phil Blalock said. A wireless solution, like Novo Dia’s Mobile Market+ system, “is key to the future of a viable way for farmers markets to be able to accept federal nutrition benefits programs as authorized retailers,” NAFMNP officials said in a release.

“MarketLink was a visionary program that was intended to provide one solution for farmers and markets, and it was a successful effort that increased sales nationwide at farmers markets and put more money in the pockets of small farmers,” Blalock said. “NAFMNP is committed to working with USDA Food Nutrition Service and stakeholders across the country to develop the next iteration of benefits’ acceptance at farmers markets so that small farmers and farmers markets are not left out by the federal government.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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