ASI launches food program at weekly farmer’s market
Associated Students, Inc. is finalizing a program that will allow students to make purchases from the farmer’s market at SF State using using Electronic Benefit Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Officially approved in July, the program is expected to launch in October, according to Horace Montgomery, director of programs and services for ASI, applied to become an authorized retailer.
“It took about a year of going through all the paperwork and then someone from Florida called me,” Montgomery said. “What we’re working on right now is a method where they can come swipe their card, they can come get their money from us, then go buy from the vendors and then the vendors will come back and recoup the money,” Montgomery said.
The ASI farmer’s market was created 10 years ago by a graduate student who envisioned a subsidized farmer’s market for students. The farmer’s market is officially a California farmer’s market and must meet state requirements, one of which is accepting EBT.
The number of SF State students who use EBT is unknown, but students have expressed an interest in EBT programs on campus, according to Montgomery.
“We take cards, but it’s only credit cards. (Students) ask me all the time, ‘do you accept EBT cards?’” said Roberto Sandoval, a vendor at the ASI farmer’s market. “I think (the EBT program) is going to help us and the students.”
Enhancing the lifestyle of students by providing healthy food options has been an important issue for ASI, according to Muata Kenyatta, associate director of programs and services and interim farmer’s market director. ASI also provides a seed giveaway program that encourages students to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“This EBT (program) is an idea that’s long overdue, and I am proud that we’re taking that direction,” said Kenyatta. “Any way we can go and service our students, we’re down for it.”
SF State is one of a few campuses in the California State University system that offers EBT programs as an option for students who experience food security and homelessness.
In a 2015 study commissioned by CSU Chancellor Timothy White, “six students discussed that they had current use of CalFresh, and several suggested that the ability to utilize EBT—often known as food stamps—on campus would lower barriers to easy access to food.”
“Staff, faculty, and administrators estimated displaced students at 8.7% and food insecure students at 21 percent,” according to the CSU study.
“I think (the EBT program) would be great,” said Alice Sowaal, a philosophy professor at SF State. “I know a lot of our students are really struggling financially.”
The stigma surrounding the use of EBT and government welfare has discouraged many students from disclosing their use of EBT and SNAP.
“I must make sure that this is seamless, that it’s not something that makes people feel uncomfortable because you’re using it,” Montgomery said. “We want them to be able to use it and we want them to be able to use it discreetly and not have to worry about any judgment.”