Farmers markets' terminals ease sales
Pennsylvania began issuing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 1998, changing the way thousands of Pennsylvanians provide food for their families.
Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, said although the switch to electronic cards is “generally positive,” the technology has drawbacks.
The cards require a machine to process them, which prevents farmers and farmers markets from accepting benefits. Before, they could trade in paper stamps at banks.
“Farmers with good, nutritious, affordable products could no longer accept food stamp benefits because they're electronic,” Regal said.
This year, Just Harvest and the City of Pittsburgh established the Fresh Access program, hosting terminals at six farmers markets in the city to essentially convert cards to cash. Using either SNAP benefits or debit cards, shoppers purchased tokens to exchange with farmers, who were reimbursed.
The program turned around nearly $40,000 in sales, Regal said, about half of which came from SNAP benefits and half from debit or credit card transactions.
In mid-October, Pennsylvania became one of more than a dozen states in which the electronic card system, operated by Xerox, malfunctioned for the better part of a day, keeping people from using benefits. In Louisiana, a computer malfunction gave cards no limits, triggering shopping sprees.
Such breakdowns don't happen often, but when they do, it can be disastrous, Regal said.
“The lesson is we should treat people on food stamps like we treat everybody else,” Regal said. “If this happened to everybody using a charge card at the grocery store, people would be up in arms.”
Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt’s new chancellor Gallagher to continue broad role at school
- Liberty Tunnel set to close; other highway projects around Pittsburgh also to start
- Beloved teacher at 3 Western Pa. schools hears from students across nation
- Oakland eatery Fuel & Fuddle to reopen under new owners
- Newsmaker: Shirley Ho
- Newsmaker: Brian Stein
- Victim identified in Pleasant Hills apartment fire
- Feds admit cooperation remains obstacle with corporations, cyber threats
- 2 sentenced for avoiding arrest after Steelers player was stabbed
- 30 cited for blocking street at union rally at UPMC facility
- Pittsburgh crime down overall in 2013 but rapes, homicides increased