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LINK Card benefits now more nutritious

Low income families that use LINK cards at farmer’s markets will get more for their money.

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LINK Card benefits now more nutritious

File: Produce at a farmers market. Illinois SNAP benefits now double value on Link Cards for fresh produce.

Flickr/Natalie Maynor

Illinois families who receive government assistance can get more for their money when they head to a farmers’ market.

Low-income families who use the LINK card can get twice the dollar value when they use it at farmers’ markets.

The LINK card works the same way that food stamps do.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that families can take advantage of the double value coupon program.

The program is designed to connect low-income residents with nutritious food options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Quinn says many underserved communities have limited access to affordable fresh foods and healthy options sold at farmers markets can be more expensive.

He says the program helps support Illinois children and the economy, by driving LINK dollars to Illinois farmers.

But, the programs success may come down to marketing.

Mari Gallagher, principal with Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group, researches food deserts and some social services. She said expanded use of link card benefits poor families across the state who are part of SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Access Program. She said these farmers markets, while typically seasonal, are not in every neighborhood, but are in many areas that low income families can access.

“Incentives like double your bucks increases the value of using it at farmers market. The fact that they can purchase without stigma and complication does benefit the health and wellness of these families.”

Gallagher added that successful marketing will encourage folks to get more for their money.

“I believe the USDA has a number of community partners on the ground. Those partners are really instrumental in getting their people out to the markets.”

According to Gallagher Marketing, it will also help people understand how they can use their LINK card and, in doing so, it can remove some of the stigma, because all vendors will accept the card at participating farmers markets.

“You don’t have to go up sheepishly vendor to vendor,” Gallagher said.

There are currently 59 Farmers Markets across the state that are involved in the program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mariam Sobh reports for WBEZ and is the Midday and Weekend anchor at WBEZ. Follow her @mariamsobh.

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