Mary Mervis Delicatessen used to serve a daily rush of 1,000 customers, who lined up for the Lexington Market stall’s meats and cheeses, corned beef sandwiches and shrimp salad. But traffic, already down to about 400 people a day since the Freddie Gray riots, has plummeted by at least half again since the century-old deli lost food stamp eligibility.
“People don’t come to the market because we can’t accept food stamps anymore,” said Eliott Bodner, the deli owner.
The deli is among a group of Baltimore public market vendors who have lost or are in danger of losing eligibility to take payments through SNAP, the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program for low-income people. Because of changes phased in over the last several years and heavier scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, market merchants such as delis, bakeries and crab shacks no longer meet federal requirements for vendors.