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Farmers Market SNAP Sales Low

Updated: Saturday, August 9 2014, 07:36 PM CDT

Many low income families across central Illinois say they don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

But they may not know that their public assistance benefits extend to many farmers markets.

Both Springfield farmers markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.

But are the incentives enough to encourage economically disadvantaged families to eat more produce?

Vendors at the downtown Springfield farmers market wrapped up another morning selling produce.

"From watermelons, sweet corn, tomatoes to anywhere from egg plant, peppers, on down the line. I just enjoy contributing to the community," said Neal Meyer of Meyer Farms.

Because of the SNAP and WIC programs, low income families are given the opportunity to shop at the market, too.

"They come in three dollar increments so we can't give change back," Meyer said.

But access to fresh fruits and vegetables is what the families need most.

"Ss far as getting fresh vegetables it's not an easy thing to do when you don't have a lot of resources," said Scherrie Giamanco, Farm Service Agency State Director.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables are probably the most expensive thing that you can buy in terms of spreading your dollar," said Whitney Ajie, extension educator for Illinois Nutrition Education Programs.

Ajie says despite the incentives, less than 1% of SNAP sales are made at farmers markets.

"Transportation, location in the urban areas, sometimes even if there's a bus system near, you might as well go to the store because of the hours and then the times that the markets are there don't always work," Ajie said.

But Ajie says good things are coming from the programs.

"WIC mothers that use the farmers market vouchers actually chose a greater variety of vegetables and were more likely to choose fruits and vegetables as snacks," said Ajie.

Farmers market vendor, Todd Fortschneider says, he's seeing the benefits, too.

"You see more senior citizens buying fruits and vegetables than they would regularly and it increases the sales, too," said Fortschneider.

Ajie says more and more Link dollars are spent at the farmers market every year, but getting more low income families to use the benefits at the farmers market is what the University of Illinois Extension is working to achieve.

Another perk for SNAP users to shop the farmers market---if a shopper spends spends $10 of SNAP funds at the farmers market, they will receive 10 extra dollars to spend.

Farmers Market SNAP Sales Low

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