After a two-year process, SF State’s farmers market will soon be able to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to address food insecurity on campus.
In 2016, the CSU Chancellor’s Office released a report indicating that approximately “one in four students were food insecure and one in 10 were housing displaced.” Adding EBT access to the farmer’s market is just one of the steps that Associated Students, Inc. is taking in order to ensure that all students are able to access all food options regardless of their income or financial status. ASI also has a running a pop-up food pantry on campus every Monday.
According to Interim Director of the Health Promotion and Wellness unit, Rick Nizzardini, they have helped at least 186 students sign up for CalFresh EBT.
“We have at least two students per week ask us if we accept EBT cards and I say no because we haven’t started,” said Roberto Jimenez, produce vendor at the farmers market.
Interdisciplinary studies of education graduate student Oscar Pena, who worked with Horace Montgomery to allow EBT spending at the farmer’s market, said that the delay was due to the University wanting to ensure that they could guarantee security when swiping cards.
“We couldn’t move forward as quickly as we wanted to because we wanted to be careful [about] how we were going to implement this,” Pena said.
In implementing the program, ASI needed tokens that students will have to acquire from them using their EBT cards. The Ecology Center that Pena connected with at an annual Small Farms conference provided the ASI logo-engraved tokens.
Junior history major and Hummus Heaven vendor Mike Lubin explained that they will be accepting EBT cards in the form of tokens that will be purchased from ASI. The vendors will then return the tokens to ASI in exchange for the amount of money they are worth.
Freshman cinema major Molly Hirsch who has been on EBT since January 2018 usually shops at Trader Joe’s and Stonestown’s farmers market.
“Stonestown farmers market [gives] twice as much,” Hirsch said. “If you give them $20, they give you 40 tokens for produce.”
The next step for ASI is to acquire the proper equipment. A 4G mobile phone line from Clover Mobile is needed in order to install the EBT app, which will enable payments with EBT SNAP Food Benefit. Without a reliable phone line, ASI won’t be able to swipe cards. According to Pena, they’re hoping to get all the equipment by the end of March.
In addition to these requirements, there were also changes within the ASI department and employment that caused a delay in the process. They also wanted to ensure that they had enough time to educate students about the process when purchasing using the tokens.
Government-regulated limitations will apply, meaning that people won’t be able to purchase prepared food at the farmers market with their EBT cards.