Farmers’ Markets at Risk of Losing the Ability to Accept SNAP Benefits

By Christie Welch
Direct Marketing Program Specialist

Ohio farmers’ markets are thriving and many of them accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP); formerly known as the federal food stamp program.

In Ohio there are currently 224 farmers’ markets and farm markets that accept SNAP benefits.  This represents a 128.6% increase since 2012.  While this has helped food insecure individuals access fresh, locally produced foods, farmers’ markets are at risk of losing this ability.

On July 2, 2018 Novo Dia Group, Inc. announced it would shut down the Mobile Market + Application.  Novo Dia Group developed the Mobile Market + application for iPhones that allows farmers’ markets the ability to accept SNAP benefits wirelessly via iPhones, iPods, and iPads.  According to the Farmers Market Coalition, “Novo Dia Group is the largest supplier of SNAP payment processing equipment to farmers markets in the country. Over 1,700 (or 40%) of farmers markets and farmers that accept SNAP nationwide are currently customers.” This ability is critical for farmers’ markets that are typically held in open air locations that lack access to land-line telephones and electricity.  If the Mobile Market + app is no longer available, farmers’ markets will have few options. SNAP benefits in Ohio are administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and are known as the Ohio Direction Card. And while ODJFS offers access to wired terminals for Ohio farmers’ markets, due to the nature of where farmers’ markets, operate wired equipment is typically not feasible. 

Once Novo Dia Group made their announcement about the shutdown of the Mobile Market + app, farmers’ market supporters around the country began looking for solutions.  On July 19 the National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs announced it would provide funding to keep the Mobile Market + app functional for an additional 30 days in hopes a more permanent solution could be identified.  And while this news was welcomed by farmers’ markets, it was a temporary solution.

Then on July 27th New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, “an agreement has been reached with Novo Dia Group to enable SNAP recipients to continue to use their benefits at farmers markets across the state, and *nationwide* through the rest of the farmers market season.”  In a press release of that day, the Governor went on to say, “This agreement also lays the groundwork for other states that rely on cellular-based transactions at farmers’ markets to continue their services as well.” You can read the full press release here: governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-plan-protect-snap-recipients-access-farmers-markets.

On August 2, 2018 Novo Dia Group provided a Frequently Asked Questions list on their website, mailchi.mp/novodiagroup/mobile-market-status-2160213?e=529d05a582.  To help farmers’ markets across the country remain up to date on the fate of Mobile Market + application and/or other solutions that may become available the Farmers Market Coalition has created a webpage dedicated to providing the most current information available.  You can find the information at: farmersmarketcoalition.org/novo-dia-group-shutdown-info-page-now-live.

The OSU Extension Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Team is following the situation closely and providing updates via our Facebook pages, @OhioDirectMarketing, and @OhioFarmersMarkets.  If you have questions or concerns about your local farmers’ markets’ ability to continue to accept SNAP benefit wirelessly, please contact Christie Welch via email to: 
welch.183@osu.edu.  We will provide additional information or assistance as it become available.