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February 20th, 2015

Federal Nutrition Benefit Programs Explained (FMNP/FVC/SNAP)

by Maryland Farmers Market Association

Federal nutrition benefit programs are funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and have shared goals of improving nutrition and health. Some also promote local food and agriculture, and the Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA) works to ensure that all benefits are best utilized through Maryland’s farmers markets. Eat Fresh Maryland is a statewide network that MDFMA convenes with the goal of increasing the redemption of these benefits.

A cornerstone initiative of the MDFMA, Maryland Market Money offers matching dollars to customers who spend their benefits at participating markets. Maryland Market Money stretches the tight budgets of benefit recipients, encourages healthy local eating, and expands the customer base at farmers markets.

Below, is a breakdown of three benefit programs that can be used at participating markets. Find a participating market and what benefits they accept with our Market Locator.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known in Maryland as the Food Supplement Program or FSP, formerly food stamps) provides valuable help to more than 1 in 7 Marylanders (over 786,000) each month. Households qualify for SNAP benefits based on eligibility guidelines including household size, gross monthly income, and basic household expenses. SNAP recipients receive their monthly benefits on a debit-style EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card, known in Maryland as an Independence Card.

Examples of SNAP eligible items include: non-hot food items (fruits, veggies, meat, milk, eggs, etc.) and seeds or plants that produce food.

Examples of ineligible items include: hot food, vitamins or medicine, paper products, and alcohol.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is available to eligible women who are pregnant, nursing, or up to 6 months post-postpartum; infants; and children up to the age of 5 (or their guardians) who meet eligibility guidelines based on household size and gross monthly income. Although WIC packages vary, WIC checks are used to purchase items such as juice, milk, cereal, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables. WIC benefits are distributed in the form of $8, $10, or $15 checks. At many farmers markets in Maryland, WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks (WIC-FVC) can be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC-FMNP) is a program available to eligible WIC recipients. The WIC FMNP program provides fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and expands awareness of and sales at farmers markets. Participants receive $20 in $5 checks, which are distributed between June and August to participants through local clinics.

The Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is available to Seniors over the age of 65 who meet income eligibility guidelines. SFMNP provides fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits, vegetables, cut herbs, and honey from farmers markets and roadside stands to low-income seniors, and increases the consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding, developing, and aiding in the development and expansion of domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs. Income eligible senior citizens receive $30 worth of $5 FMNP checks, which are distributed between June and August to participants through local senior centers.

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About the Author Maryland Farmers Market Association