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SNAP, HIP and their Future with Farmers Markets

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, has been partnered with the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) in Massachusetts since 2017.

Through HIP, SNAP users receive $1 for every dollar they spend on eligible fruits and vegetables. There is a monthly limit dependent on household size as well as specific retailers (farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and CSA programs).

The goal of this partnership was to increase motivation of low-income households to purchase fresh produce from their local farmers. The hope was that lower income communities would receive better access to healthier foods while local farming business fostered.

There have been similar programs to HIP, however it was the first of its kind to wirelessly process SNAP payments. The software that Massachusetts farmers (and a quarter of the nation's markets) use to process SNAP/HIP payments is Novo Dia Group. On July 9, the company announced that they would be out of business by the end of July, placing blame on the lack of support from the USDA. With such short notice, farmers and SNAP users started to panic, but they all breathed a sigh of relief two weeks later.

On July 19, The National Associasion of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs announced they would be funding Novo Dia through August. Not long after, New York State announced their funding of the software through February. While this is good news for market goers and farmers, it is not a permanent solution.

Farmers who previously used Novo Dia software will not receive an "upgrade" to bulkier software, but instead may choose to add themselves to the waitlist for SNAP processing equipment. Other than farmers purchasing costly equipment themselves, what does the future relationship look like between farmers and SNAP users? There have been talks of state-run programs similar to SNAP, like California's "CalFresh" program, but nothing has been set in stone.

At least farmers and SNAP users will be able to finish out the 2018 farmers market season, with Novo Dia, but come end of February there will be some figuring out to do. Stay tuned.


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