Muzzarelli Farms

Rita Muzzarelli, of Muzzarelli Farms in Vineland, had plenty of corn to stock the farmers market stands last summer. The market accepted Families First/EBT Cards as payment for fresh produce from people who use SNAP benefits.

Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer

A bill approved Monday by a state Assembly panel aims to increase access to fresh produce for people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infants and Children program.

The measure, sponsored by Assemblymen Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, Adam Taliaferro, D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, and others, would streamline the process for farmers markets to participate in WIC and SNAP programs. It was advanced by the Assembly’s Women and Children Committee.

The state Department of Human Services last year listed 29 farmers markets in 16 counties that could accept Families First/EBT cards from SNAP program participants.

There were 816,126 people receiving state SNAP benefits as of January, according to the most recent state Division of Family Development report.

Legislators said in an effort to increase access to fresh foods for low-income populations, the bill would make it easier for markets already approved to accept SNAP customers to also participate in WIC’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs.

“With multiple applications, the process to become a farmers’ market vendor is daunting,” Taliaferro said in a statement.

The WIC Services Unit in the state Department of Health would be able to authorize SNAP farmers market vendors for the WIC nutrition program by just seeing SNAP documentation.

Currently, farmer’s markets have to get separate authorization from the state WIC unit for two nutrition programs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for SNAP to participate in these programs. The bill would allow one federal SNAP approval to serve as authorization for all three programs.

“Farmers market vendors should be encouraged to participate in WIC and SNAP programs,” Mazzeo said in a statement. “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.”

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Contact:

609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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