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Simon: Combating food insecurity must be a priority 

 
SPRINGFIELD – April 16, 2014. Building on her work to provide local and healthy food to Illinois residents, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined advocates and stakeholders to discuss ways to combat food insecurity throughout the state, upcoming policy issues and pending legislation impacting farmers markets during a Governor’s Rural Affairs Council meeting in Springfield on Wednesday.

“No one in Illinois should be experiencing food insecurity,” said Simon. “Children should not be going to bed hungry and families should not have to worry about where they will get their next meal.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. An estimated 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year according to the most recently available statistics, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

Simon recently visited the Carbondale Community Farmers Market to urge farmers markets across Illinois to accept Link cards via new wireless technology provided by the state. The Carbondale Community Farmers Market is the first market in Illinois to receive a free wireless point-of-sale terminal through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), Xerox, MerchantSource and Total Merchant Services. Simon noted that these machines help promote acceptance of the Link card for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Currently, about a quarter of the nearly 400 Illinois farmers markets in the state are accepting these benefits.

Simon also discussed legislation passed out of the Illinois House last week aimed at standardizing the fees and regulations related to farmers markets in the stats. Currently, rules for farmers markets are set by local health departments. A uniform set of regulations concerning food samples, labeling a product’s origin, and vendor fees would be put into place under House Bill 5657. The measure unanimously passed the House and has been sent to the Illinois Senate for further consideration.

Lt. Governor Sheila Simon chairs the 25-member Governor's Rural Affairs Council (GRAC). Under Simon's leadership, the GRAC has worked to expand access to locally grown, healthy foods and emergency medical services (EMS) in rural areas, as well as other rural issues.