SPRINGFIELD – Illinois farmers’ markets have through noon on July 9 to apply for a federal grant that will pay for wireless machines that accept debit, credit and Link cards, local food advocate Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said today.
The project is funded by a grant of $182,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and aims to expand access to fresh produce for low-income residents and increase the sale of locally grown food across the state by enabling farmers’ markets to accept Illinois Link cards, which access federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, wirelessly at minimal cost for the first time. Money not earmarked for grant applicants by next week will be returned to the federal government, so Simon urged market managers to take advantage of the opportunity now.
“This is a great opportunity to boost access to local foods in Illinois and make sure we keep more of our food dollars in the state,” said Simon, who chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council. “I urge every farmers’ market to apply and take advantage of this one-time federal funding. It will help farmers connect with new customers and increase sales.”
Project participants will be selected by mid-July and provided with community kits developed by the Lt. Governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Agriculture that will include training and promotional materials. The Illinois Department of Human Services is also involved in administering the program while Experimental Station, a Chicago non-profit, and the Illinois Farmers Market Association will assist with training and the development of promotional materials.
To apply for the Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Wireless Project, visit www.agr.state.il.us or call 217-524-9129.