Food Access2


For most of its history, the program used paper-denominated “stamps” or coupons – worth US$1 (brown), $5 (blue), and $10 (green) – bound into booklets of various denominations, to be torn out individually and used in single-use exchange. Because of their intrinsic value of 1:1 with actual money, the coupons were printed by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Their rectangular shape resembled a US dollar bill (although about 1/2 the size), including intaglio printing on high-quality paper with watermarks.

In the late 1990s, the Food Stamp program was revamped, with some states phasing out actual stamps in favor of a specialized debit card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), provided by private contractors. Many states merged the use of the EBT card for public welfare programs as well, such as cash assistance. The move was designed to save the government money by not printing the coupons, make benefits available immediately instead of forcing the recipient to wait for mailing or picking up the booklets in person, and reduce theft and diversion. The 2008 farm bill renamed the Food Stamp Program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (as of October 2008), and replaced all references to “stamp” or “coupon” in federal law to “card” or “EBT.”[2][3]

In the 2012 fiscal year, $74.6 billion in food assistance was distributed.[4] As of September 2012, 47.7 million Americans were receiving on average $134.29 per month in food assistance.[4] In Washington, D.C., and Mississippi, more than one-fifth of residents receive food assistance.[5]

CFMA provides member markets with paper coupons in $1 increments that can be given to customers when they swipe their EBT card; the customer then exchanges these coupons with vendors for food items, and the market reimburses the vendors for redeemed coupons.

If your market wishes to register to accept SNAP, or if you are having technical problems with your EBT machine, please contact:
Lauren Bell
Colorado Department of Human Services
Telephone: 303 866 4403

The State of Colorado EBT Program will pay for funding of machines and communications fees for all markets. For new markets or those new to accepting SNAP, the state received funding from USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in 2012 to expand the use of EBT in Farmers Markets. So far, FNS has rolled over unused funds but the state must wait each year to see whether funds will be rolled over. Even if FNS funds are not rolled over, the state program should be able to cover the fees of the POS device lease and communication fees for the use of EBT cards. If the market chooses to use their POS device for credit cards, the market is responsible for the communication fees for credit cards transactions.