Program to include farmers’ markets for SNAP recipients on hold

A new pilot program meant to give food stamp recipients greater access to fresh foods at farmers’ markets is on hold pending a state budget.

The governor signed a measure last month creating a pilot program meant to make fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets more accessible to people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Former state Rep. Mike Tryon, who pushed for the bill, said the program is meant to increase a SNAP recipient’s buying power.

“This actually does allow us to take advantage of a federal program through a match where whatever we put in we get that amount of dollars back,” he said.

The law caps the program at $500,000 in state funds through the Department of Human Services. Tryon said each SNAP recipient could spend $10 at farmers’ markets and get a $10 match for more eligible products.

Too often, according to Tryon, SNAP participants can only access lower-quality foods.

“The hope is that, in some of these areas that aren’t given access to local foods, this would be an initiative to bring that back, to make a more healthy farmers’ market, to make them more viable,” he said.

Illinois Farmers’ Market Association Executive Director Jane Maxwell said the program will bring more people to the markets.

“It drives revenue back to our farmers, which are basically small and local businesses which then supports the economy,” she said.

However, Tryon and Maxwell said if there’s no appropriation from lawmakers, there’s no program.

Corey Chatman directs a program called Experimental Station in Chicago that helps farmers’ markets set up in low-income communities. He helped fight for the measure.

Chatman now says it’s time to fight for appropriation.

“That’s the next hurdle. First getting it into law is awesome, now we just have to make sure it’s appropriately funded,” he said.

Tryon said this could help combat diseases like diabetes, which adds “a huge impact to our medicaid expenditures as well as just to Illinoisans in general trying to take care of themselves — and part of the solution to that is to try to get better access to healthier foods.”

The program is subject to appropriation and sunsets in 2019 with progress reports throughout.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a previous version of the bill last year because the pilot program did not require progress reports, was too expensive and did not have a date for final evaluation. His recommendations were included in the bill that passed, and he signed it last month.

–Illinois News Network

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