‘Great For Markets’

Company Investment Will Continue SNAP Benefits

People at the Jamestown Public Market last year along Cherry Street in Jamestown. On Tuesday, state officials announced Square Inc.’s $2 million investment in Novo Dia Group, which will support the continued expansion of the Mobile Market Plus electronic benefits transfer platform on which farmers’ markets across the state currently operate. P-J file photo

Mobile Market Plus electronic benefits transfer platform will continue at local farmers markets throughout the county this summer.

On Tuesday, state officials announced Square Inc.’s $2 million investment in Novo Dia Group, which will support the continued expansion of the Mobile Market Plus electronic benefits transfer platform on which farmers’ markets across the state currently operate.

This solution follows New York’s action this past summer that ensured uninterrupted service to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, recipients and agricultural producers who rely on farmers’ markets. The state partnered with the Farmers Market Federation of New York to provide funding to Novo Dia Group, the mobile application vendor that provides SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer services to farmers’ markets, allowing them to continue to operate through the rest of the farmers’ market season and until a long-term solution could be found.

Linnea Carlson, Jamestown Renaissance Corp. public market manager, said she is thankful for the state government’s assistance last year and for Square’s investment this year that will allow SNAP customers to continue using their benefits at the Jamestown Public Market.

“This is great for markets across the country, not just the Jamestown Public Market. It is helpful to us because we don’t have to invest in additional equipment or have contracts in place. We don’t have to worry this summer about how we would help our customers,” she said. “It really is something a lot of people don’t understand the importance of. Our farmers benefit very much by being able to accept SNAP benefits from customers. It goes right to the farmers’ pockets and it helps SNAP customers buy fresh produce and meat products, and it is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Carlson said Jamestown Public Market officials don’t know the percentage of customers who use SNAP benefits because they don’t track cash purchases. However, she said SNAP and credit card purchases increased by 61 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.

“We have a significant amount of people that wouldn’t be able to spend that money without this equipment,” she said. “A good portion of our customers utilize SNAP because we also participate in Double Up Food Bucks program that is funded through a nonprofit known as the Field and Fork Network out of Buffalo. It is a program throughout the state that they bring to different markets. For every dollar spent in SNAP, you receive a dollar match at no cost that can be used on purchasing fruits and vegetables. Again more money going into the local economy and our customers get fresh produce. We are one of three markets in the county that have this program.”

In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a new contract that provided SNAP equipment and services for farmers’ markets to a company that does not support mobile, cellular-based transactions, ultimately denying hundreds of thousands of needy families the opportunity to purchase fresh, nutritious, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

With no replacement technology in place, both farmers and SNAP beneficiaries faced uncertainty about the future of market transactions. The Novo Dia Group, which worked with the USDA to develop the cellular mobile technology that enables farmers’ markets to accept SNAP benefit cards for purchases, had indicated that they were no longer able to continue in business due to the lack of continued support from the USDA.

New York state officials worked with the Farmers Market Federation of NY and other impacted states to formulate a solution. A temporary agreement with Novo Dia Group was reached that provided uninterrupted access for SNAP recipients to continue to make purchases at farmers’ markets, while also benefiting local farmers during their busiest season. The agreement also ensured that other states relying on cellular-based transactions at farmers’ markets could continue their services as well. Novo Dia Group serves more than 1,700 farmers’ markets and farmers that accept SNAP nationwide.

“We are thankful to the state, Square and Farmers Market Coalition at the national level to advocate at the federal level for communities,” Carlson said. “It is important they know they have a voice in these issues and to understand how much it affects the local community. It especially helps the farmers who work hard to bring fresh produce to the market.”

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