Increasing supplemental nutrition assistance program/electronic benefits transfer sales at farmers' markets with vendor-operated wireless point-of-sale terminals

Alison M Buttenheim, Joshua Havassy, Michelle Fang, Jonathan Glyn, Allison E Karpyn
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012, 112 (5): 636-41

BACKGROUND: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamp Program) participants can use their benefits at many farmers' markets. However, most markets have only one market-operated wireless point-of-sale (POS) card swipe terminal for electronic benefits transfer (EBT) transactions. It is not known whether providing each farmer/vendor with individual wireless POS terminals and subsidizing EBT fees will increase SNAP/EBT purchases at farmers' markets.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of multiple vendor-operated wireless POS terminals (vs a single market-operated terminal) on use of SNAP benefits at an urban farmers' market.

DESIGN: Time-series analyses of SNAP/EBT sales.

SETTING: The Clark Park farmers' market in West Philadelphia, PA, which accounts for one quarter of all SNAP/EBT sales at farmers' markets in Pennsylvania.

INTERVENTION: Vendors were provided with individual wireless POS terminals for 9 months (June 2008-February 2009.) The pilot program covered all equipment and wireless service costs and transaction fees associated with SNAP/EBT, credit, and debit sales.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Monthly SNAP/EBT sales at the Clark Park farmers' market.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES: SNAP/EBT sales data were collected for 48 months (January 2007-December 2010). Time-series regression analysis was used to estimate the effect of the intervention period (June 2008-February 2009) on SNAP/EBT sales, controlling for seasonal effects and total SNAP benefits issued in Philadelphia.

RESULTS: The intervention was associated with a 38% increase in monthly SNAP/EBT sales. Effects were greatest during the busy fall market seasons. SNAP/EBT sales did not remain significantly higher after the intervention period.

CONCLUSIONS: Providing individual wireless POS terminals to farmers' market vendors leads to increased sales. However, market vendors indicated that subsidies for equipment costs and fees would be needed to break even. Currently, SNAP provides some support for these services for supermarket and other SNAP retailers with landline access, but not for farmers' markets.

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