Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Vince Mazzeo, Eliana Pintor Marin and Pamela Lampitt to encourage farmer’s markets to participate in food assistance programs for low-income families was signed into law on Monday.
The bill (A-4786) is designed to streamline the application process to make it easier for farmers markets to participate in federal and state nutrition programs in an effort to increase access to fresh foods for individuals receiving assistance.
“Farmer’s markets are a source of local, fresh food for their communities,” said Taliaferro (D- Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “However, with multiple applications, the process to become a farmers’ market vendor can be discouraging. The application process needs to be streamlined to do away with separate authorizations and allow as many farmer’s market vendors as possible to participate.”
“Farmer’s market vendors should be encouraged to participate in WIC and SNAP programs,” said Mazzeo (D- Atlantic). “This legislation would make the process less complicated for vendors. With more vendors participating, residents will have more farmers’ market options around the state for shopping.”
“We want people to have access to healthier foods. If a vendor has already been authorized to operate as a farmers market for the federal and state nutrition programs, I don’t see the need for a separate application process, “said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “Simplifying this process will help get more farmers markets involved, and provide healthier food options for WIC and SNAP participants.”
“Healthier foods tend to be more expensive, which can make eating healthier on a fixed budget problematic,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Making it easier for farmers markets to cater to WIC and SNAP families ensures that families and children in particular, are getting fresh produce which is so important for their nutrition.”
The bill requires the WIC Services Unit in the Department of health to authorize a vendor that is a farmers market to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), if the applicant is approved to operate as a farmers market for the federal and state nutrition programs.
Specifically, the bill provides that the farmers market is only required to provide documentation to the WIC Services Unit that it is an approved farmers market for SNAP to be authorized as a WIC vendor.
Currently, farmers markets are required to receive authorization separately from the state WIC Services Unit to participate in the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and from the federal Department Agriculture to participate as an authorized SNAP farmer’s market vendor. This bill will allow the one federal application to serve as authorization for all three programs.