Date of Award

5-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Agricultural Sciences

First Advisor

Smith, Sylvia

Abstract

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously ‘food stamps’), is the nation’s largest federal entitlement nutritional assistance program which assists individuals and households living below the federal poverty level in order to reduce the amount of money they spend on food. With the conversion of food stamps coupons to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), vendors at farmers markets are unable to accept SNAP benefits due to lack of necessary technology adoption. The number of farmers markets has increased 39 percent since 2010 yet only 21 percent of the nation’s farmers markets are equipped to accept EBT (USDA AMS, 2015a). The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to apply the theory of Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) to explain EBT technology adoption at mid-west farmers markets (Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin). This study intended to identify the socio-demographic characteristics and levels of communication of farmers market managers, market compatibilities, and perceived EBT attributes that might influence EBT adoption at farmers markets. A survey was administered electronically to market managers of three mid-west states to collect the necessary information to answer the research objectives. A total of 181 managers completed the survey. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify effects of several variables on EBT adoption. Analysis of Variance and Chi-square test were utilized to compare the states and adopter groups. Results of logistic regression showed significant effects of specific variables on EBT adoption. Market managers’ level of communication (Farmers Market Association membership and having partnerships with other organizations), market characteristics (availability of public transports to the market and number of SNAP recipients living in the area), and market managers’ perceptions of EBT attributes (perceived usefulness, ability to try-out, and acceptability) were statistically significant predictors of EBT adoption. For market managers and organizers who are seeking resources and considering EBT adoption assessment of compatibility and level of communication prior to adoption should be considered. In conclusion, the theory of DOI was able to explain effects of market characteristics, market managers’ level of communication, and perceived attributes of EBT on its adoption among the respondents of mid-west farmers markets. Findings of the study can be useful for policymakers in navigating through financial, human, organizational, and political constraints to develop a reachable goal in providing EBT to farmers markets across the nation. Improving the rate of EBT adoption will ultimately have a positive impact on the health of low-income population and sustainability of local agriculture.

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