OAK PARK - July 17, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to encourage Illinois residents to support local farmers’ markets. The two new laws make it easier for schools and people using LINK cards to access fresh, locally grown and raised products at farmers’ markets throughout the state.
A LINK card is an electronic card issued by the Department of Human Services that enables the user to obtain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly referred to as food stamps.
“There is no soil richer than the soil right here in Illinois, and some of the best fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at local farmers’ markets,” said Governor Quinn. “It is important for everyone to have access to the fine produce from Illinois, and these bills make it easier for families and even schools to support their local farmers while buying fresh, healthy food.”
Senate Bill 615, sponsored by Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Plainfield) and Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), makes it possible for schools to buy fresh produce from local farmers. Under the new law, the Department of Agriculture will work with the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Council to create an online database that will help schools purchase fresh food products.
The Web site will allow schools to identify and contact local farmers, and it will enable farmers to locate schools seeking fresh produce. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2011.
House Bill 4756 sponsored by Rep. Ford and Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) makes it easier for people who use LINK cards to purchase fresh produce at Illinois farmers’ markets.
The new law creates a Farmers’ Market Technology Improvement Program to help people redeem their SNAP benefits to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers’ markets throughout Illinois will now have the option of obtaining LINK card equipment. The law goes into effect immediately.
Governor Quinn signed both laws at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market. Each Saturday from May through October, the market features local products such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, vinegar, flowers and plants; homemade donuts; souvenirs; and live music.