When SNAP recipients shop at a retail store, they gather their purchases, then pay at the cash register with their EBT card. Farmers’ markets are a bit more challenging, since each farmer is essentially a different “shop”. Maine markets use different techniques to manage EBT payments. Below are definitions from the two most common systems. (The definitions are from the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Incentive Provider Study.)
Markets using a scrip system give SNAP shoppers tokens or vouchers to spend as they shop around the market.
“In this system, market staff use a centralized POS device to provide SNAP participants with the system currency in use, paper scrip or tokens, by swiping the participants EBT card to debit the amount requested by the participant and, in exchange, provide the participant with the equivalent amount in the scrip currency. The participant can use this to shop at all eligible food booths in the market. The scrip currency is then redeemed at participating farm vendors to purchase SNAP eligible products; farmers trade the currency with market staff for payment. Unspent FM currency may be redeemed at subsequent visits to the FM. The additional step of converting the benefits to FM currency allows a FM to use a single EBT machine for the entire market and SNAP benefits to be redeemed by multiple participating vendors within a market (or at participating markets).”
This is the approach used by the majority of Maine farmers’ markets. The customer’s card is swiped after they have finished their shopping.
“In this FM model, SNAP participants do not need to use a market currency such as paper scrip or tokens and actually pay for the exact purchase using their EBT card and thus their account is debited for an exact amount rather than an anticipated amount. In this model, the SNAP participant shops at the market and sets aside selected food at a farmer’s booth. The farmer gives the customer a list of the selected items. The customer then takes the list to the centralized POS device, uses their EBT card to pay for the items, and receives a receipt of payment. The SNAP participant gives the farmer the receipt in exchange for the selected food items. The market staff keeps track of the receipts and reimburses the farmers based on the day’s purchases, which are reconciled with the farmers’ receipts.”