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Grant brings Link to farmers’ markets 

 
The Southern Illinoisan
July 25, 2012
By Codell Rodriguez

Carbondale's Friday Night Fair will be one of 41 farmers’ markets in Illinois to receive a grant to allow Link, debit card and credit card payment.

The Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer Wireless Project, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will distribute $1,200 to each farmers’ market. The program was announced in a USDA conference call Tuesday, which included Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Audrey Rowe and Connie Spreen, executive director for Chicago-based non-profit Experimental Station.

The call also included Beecher-based farmer Josh Dotson of Dotson Farms. The markets getting the assistance are located throughout the state, but Carbondale is the only market in the region.

Rowe said the President Barack Obama administration has a commitment to healthy diets for all Americans, and the addition of EBT machines will greatly increase the availability of healthy, locally grown foods.

“From our perspective, this is a win-win situation,” Rowe said.

The USDA is offering $4 million throughout the country to increase the amount of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmers’ markets. The benefits are through the Link card in Illinois, which has totaled almost $70,000 in SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets in 2011.

Simon said the program will benefit the health of Illinois residents and the state’s economy.

“It’s a good thing for low-income folks, and it’s a good thing for everyone in the state of Illinois,” Simon said.

Spreen said one in seven Illinoisans receive SNAP benefits. She said his will help Illinois because only 5 percent of the food eaten in Illinois actually comes from within the state.

Dotson said his farm has taken part in farmers’ markets since 1979, and said he has “seen a noticeable increase in customer base and sales.”