Lt. Gov.: LINK program shows 269 percent increase | Community Spirit
WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced Monday at the Illinois Farm Bureau that figures are showing more low-income residents are buying fresh foods at farmers markets.
Simon said the amount of food stamp benefits known as LINK redeemed at Illinois farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers jumped from $11,146 to $41,146 between 2009 and 2010. She attributed the growth, partly, to wider access.
She cited data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that said last year, 35 Illinois farmers markets and direct marketing farmers were certified to accept the state-issued LINKED debit cards. The data also says, currently, 49 Illinois farmers markets and direct marketing farmers accept LINKED cards across 21 counties.
“We are seeing a promising trend: more farmers markets accepting LINK and more food stamp benefits being used to buy locally produced, fresh food,” said Simon. “But with over 300 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers in Illinois, there is room to thrive. I am committed to helping expand LINK usage at farmers markets to improve the health and economy of our state.”
Experimental Station, a Chicago non-profit, estimates the average start-up cost of equipping farmers' markets to accept LINK is $2,500. They said that cost covers outreach to SNAP recipients, buying a wireless EBT machine to accept LINK and the servicing charges associated with the machines.
According to Simon, every dollar that is spent on local foods in Illinois has a total economic impact of $1.34, while every dollar spent on imported food returns only 20 cents to the state's economy.
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