LIHU‘E — The Electronics Benefits Transfer program will be back at select participating sunshine and farmers markets as early as March 25, said Frank Ranger, director of the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, Tuesday.
“The … Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, where families have been able to purchase tokens and get matched with coupons and shop at the farmers markets, has all of a sudden stopped with no warnings or information given to families,” said Chareena Shamia in an email. “Many families do not know why it stopped. Many families use this program weekly and have been shocked by the sudden end of it.”
Ranger said the program was stopped on March 1 after a contract dispute with the County of Kaua‘i, which partners with the KIFB in offering SNAP recipients the use of their EBT cards to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other items at select participating farmers markets.
“George Costa, the director of the County’s Office of Economic Development, just signed the new contract (Tuesday) morning,” Ranger said. “This means the EBT program could be back in the markets by as early as March 25.”
Ranger said he has been in discussion with various county officials, including the Kaua‘i County Council, about contract issues from mid-February, and finally had to “pull the plug” on the program on March 1 after no contract settlement was reached.
In a response to a query by Kaua‘i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro on EBT assistance, Ranger said in the 2012 calendar year, there were 2,838 EBT transactions amounting to $51,929.
Additionally, under the Double Your SNAP Dollars promotion, which was funded through a grant from the County of Kaua‘i, there was an additional $29,342 transacted for an annual gross of $81,271.
Ranger said for the first two months of 2013, there were 340 transactions ending Feb. 28, 2013, amounting to $12,289 with an additional $12,146 generated through the Double Your SNAP Dollars program. This amounted to $24,435.
Ranger said the amounts reflect the dollar expenditure EBT participants spent at Kaua‘i farmers markets, including the county-operated sunshine markets.
“Having this service available in our markets has been an incredible benefit for the customer and the farmer,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. “The county is 100 percent behind continuing to provide this service.”
The revenue from the Sunshine market for 2012 was $972,000, a 26 percent increase from 2011, which county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka attributed to new customers that have been brought in through the EBT initiative.
“This was an awesome program which promoted healthy eating and supported local farmers,” Shamia said. “Many of us would like it to continue.”
Ranger said when the EBT program resumes, there will be no 2-for-1 program.
“The funding for that program has already run out,” Ranger said.
KIFB, in partnership with the County of Kaua‘i, Get Fit Kaua‘i-Communities Putting Prevention to Work, the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau and KCC launched the EBT program in September 2011.
Visit www.kauaifoodbank.org for more information on the EBT program.