California Takes Big Step for Healthy Food for All
Thanks to the tremendous effort from our friends at ALBA, Gov. Schwarzenegger recently signed into law AB 537 – a bill that will allow electronic benefit transfer systems (EBT) (aka food stamps) to be accepted at certified farmers’ markets and flea markets. This is a solid win for improving access to healthy food for underserved low-income communities in California.
Farmers’ markets are an increasingly important source of fresh produce and can offer excellent values, but of the nearly 600 certified farmers markets in California, only about 20 percent of them accept EBT. The lack of EBT access is a critical barrier for many lower-income consumers with limited options for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables.
Traditional paper food stamps have been transitioning to EBT, which now operates much like a debit card. And, as of June 2009, paper food stamps are no longer accepted. While EBT certainly provides convenience and efficiency for both the administrator and user, it requires an electronic point of sale (POS) device to collect EBT. These machines are typically free of charge so long as a minimum amount of sales are made each month. However, some market managers have been resistant to accepting EBT.
AB 537 gives farmers who wish to accept EBT at a farmers’ market or flea market the opportunity to form a legal entity to operate the POS device on behalf of other farmers, when market managers do choose not to accept EBT.
This bill is an important and welcome step toward ensuring all Californians have access to the fresh food they need to live healthy lives.