Accepting WIC, Senior Nutrition Vouchers, EBT and Credit Cards

Being able to accept WIC, Senior Nutrition Vouchers and EBT is a great way to increase sales as well as expand your clientele base.

WIC.
WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. The national program is funded by the US Farm Bill and administered in RI by the Department of Health. WIC provides nutrition-based food assistance to low-income pregnant women, and mothers with children up to five years in age.

There are a few types of WIC checks, some of which can be used at grocery stores and some at farmers markets. Know which are which to avoid costly bank mistakes:

  • WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks. The vouchers are $5 each and say "Farmers Market". These checks can only be used for fresh RI grown fruits, vegetables and cut cooking herbs sold at approved farmers markets. Customers usually receive three $5 vouchers for an entire season and they expire on October 31. Farmers must deposit them by the end of November, but are encouraged to deposit the checks throughout the season to make more money available to the program.
  • WIC Fruit & Vegetable checks. These vouchers range from $6, $10, or $15 and say "Fruit and Vegetable". These checks can be used for most fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables at approved farmers markets and grocery stores. White potatoes, herbs, dried fruits and prepared vegetables are not allowed. Customers receive these checks monthly all year long, so farmers can accept them at winter farmers markets. Farmers must deposit them within 30 days.
  • Regular WIC checks. These checks look similar but are for a variety of non-produce items including bread, milk, and baby formulas. They can only be used at grocery stores, not at farmers markets.

In order to accept WIC FMNP vouchers, you must fill out a Farmer Agreement with the Department of Health along with a crop plan. In addition, your market must have at least 3 farms participating and be approved by the Department of Health.

  • Contact Lauren Piluso (401-222-4637; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), the Farmers Market Nutrition Program Coordinator at RI Department of Health, or your local WIC office for details about WIC acceptance.
  • Rhode Island Department of Health – Information for WIC Vendors.

Senior Nutrition Checks.
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors with $5 checks that can be exchanged for locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs. To accept Senior Nutrition checks, a vendor needs to be authorized by the Rhode Island DEM Division of Agriculture.

  • Contact Peter Susi (401-222-2781 x4517; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) Coordinator at RI DEM Division of Agriculture for details about SFMNP acceptance.
  • Overview and regulations of the SFMNP

SNAP & EBT.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides supplemental assistance to low-income residents of the towns/neighborhoods of your market on debit-like cards called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. SNAP was previously called Food Stamps. Currently, as of January 2012, approximately 1 in 7 Rhode Islanders receive SNAP, which averages a little over $100 per month to spend on food. It adds up to millions of dollars a month being spent on food in Rhode Island and that's a huge opportunity for your farm if your market accepts SNAP.

Most markets in Rhode Island that accept EBT use wireless card-reading machines and metal coins called Fresh Bucks. Learn more about how Fresh Bucks work.

SNAP can be used to purchase most groceries, including dairy and meat. SNAP dollars cannot purchase hot prepared foods, unpackaged baked goods or nonfood items. SNAP can be used for food plants.

Credit Cards.
Most markets in Rhode Island that accept credit and debit cards use wireless card-reading machines and $5 metal coins called Fresh Bucks. Learn more about how Fresh Bucks work.

  • Contact Sarah Lester ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), Markets Coordinator at Farm Fresh RI, for details about Fresh Bucks acceptance.

Pricing for WIC, SFMNP, and SNAP.
Many of the food assistance program checks and the Fresh Bucks coins come in price-specific amounts for which you cannot provide change. It is helpful to have items available that add up to an even $5 for WIC and Senior customers. Be flexible and proactive to help these customers find the right mix of food to add up to the designated amount.

Most of these checks can only be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a federal law. If you are selling prepared foods or local soaps you cannot accept these checks.

Also, most people use their checks right before they're about to expire at the end of October -- be prepared for a rush!

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