Food stamp spending grows at Midwest farmers markets

December 31, 2013

Flickr/Cooperweb
File: Chicago farmers market.

In 2013, the amount of money spent at farmers markets by food stamp recipients grew in the Midwest.

And the number of farmers markets that accept food stamps experienced a 79 percent increase.

Alan Shannon, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said there are a lot of misperceptions about families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“A lot of times there are access issues - food deserts and the like - where SNAP populations or lower-income populations don’t have access to healthy food. Farmers markets a lot of times can resolve those challenges,” Shannon said.

Last year, 65 farmers markets in Illinois accepted SNAP benefits; this year there are 97.

That helps many low-income areas, which lack healthy food options.

“When we look at these data every year going up for SNAP redemptions in the Midwest, you can tell that SNAP participants really do want healthy food, they just have to have access to it,” Shannon said.

Illinois is third in the country in the number of farmers markets. Michigan is second in the nation in farmers market food stamp sales. Shannon said the private and nonprofit sector has helped support small farmers reach low-income families.

is a WBEZ reporter. nmoore@wbez.org Follow Natalie on Google+,  Twitter