Goodbye for now, EBT

LIHUE — Saturday was the last day shoppers on the Electronics Benefits Transfer program could use their tokens at the farmers market.

“Most of the beneficiaries are close to the end of the month and don’t have much of a balance left,” said Anuenue Kanahele, the Kauai Independent Food Bank EBT clerk at the county’s Lihue sunshine market. “Vendors need to exchange their tokens because this is the last market we’ll be at. They can exchange their tokens at the KIFB facility in Nawiliwili, but need to get it done, quickly.”

Earlier, KIFB announced it would be discontinuing the EBT program at the end of June.

KIFB started the program with a grant in 2012 by offering EBT at four of the county’s sunshine markets, including the Kukui Grove Monday Market and the Kauai Community Market at the Kauai Community College. This initial offering was designed as a pilot program.

However, interest in the program increased and KIFB extended the service in 2013 based on available funds.

The County of Kauai supported this effort with a $40,000 matching fund to provide EBT recipients with double purchasing power and increased access to locally-grown produce.

As of today, KIFB does not have the funds to continue the EBT program in the six farmers markets.

The mayor and Kauai County Council approved a $50,000 grant for any qualifying organization to be a certified EBT provider and service the four county sunshine markets.

The Office of Economic Development will administer the grant and is hopeful an organization can become certified and in operation today.

“There are several organizations which have expressed interest in becoming an EBT provider, but as of Friday, are still awaiting certification,” Kanahele said.

Melissa McFerrin, the Kauai Farm Bureau coordinator for the Kauai Community Market, said the market at the Kauai CC campus is the second-most productive market for the EBT program.

“We want to thank all of the EBT shoppers and vendors for their support of the program,” McFerrin said Saturday as she watched the flow of vendors exchange their EBT tokens. “There will be a disruption of the EBT program, but I’m hopeful the program will return once a provider becomes certified.”

Kanahele said vendors holding EBT tokens should exchange them at the Kauai Independent Food Bank, 3285 Waapa Road in Nawiliwili by July 15.

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