SNAP/EBTLegal TopicsWho Administers Benefits?Market-Operated SNAP Systems

Who Administers SNAP?

Woodcut illustration of a hand holding a farmers market token

Option 1: Market-Operated SNAP Systems

Most farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits do so through a centralized POS device. That is, the market becomes an authorized retailer through FNS and owns or rents and operates a POS device to process SNAP EBT transactions on behalf of all of its vendors that sell SNAP-eligible items.

One thing for markets to keep in mind is FNS’s one machine-one location rule. Under this rule, market organizations that run more than one market must apply for separate FNS authorization for each market location and operate a different POS machine at each authorized market. However, there are some exceptions; for example, markets that move indoors for the winter. For a fuller explanation of the one machine-one location rule, click scrip/obtaining-a-point-of-sale-device/#multiple-locations-pos">here.

Note: the 2018 Farm Bill specified that farmers markets be allowed to use POS machines at multiple locations under certain circumstances. (Click here to see the change at Section 4006 on page 146 of the pdf.) To our knowledge, FNS has not yet updated its rule.

Markets using a centralized POS device must choose between two primary methods for administering SNAP sales:

Using market currency

  1. Customers swipe their SNAP EBT cards through the market’s POS device to purchase a market currency, like tokens.
  2. They use the market currency to buy SNAP-eligible food items from vendors.
  3. Vendors return the currency to the market for cash reimbursement.

Operating a receipt system

  1. A customer visits a vendor and identifies the SNAP-eligible food items he or she wants to purchase.
  2. The vendor gives the customer a receipt listing the total cost of those items.
  3. The customer takes the receipt to the market’s centralized POS device, pays that amount, and receives proof of payment.
  4. The customer returns to the vendor to show the proof of payment and pick up the purchased items.

To learn more about the mechanics and legal dimensions of using either a market currency or receipt system, explore the Equipment and Payment section.

Farmers Market Legal Toolkit