Let Friends Bring Food to Your Table
Evanstonians are healthier when they have enough to eat, and SNAP is the first line of defense for preventing hunger. Farmers markets can play a critical role. In communities with fewer grocery stores, farmers markets can be a great resource for families who want to eat healthier.
The good news is that we’ve made important strides in expanding access to farmers markets and expanding access to fresh produce by helping SNAP recipients leverage their food dollars at Evanston’s farmers markets.
What Do Friends Do?
Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets offers a matching program, which adds 50% to the amount that a SNAP user purchases, up to a $50 withdrawal. In other words, families and Link card users get a big boost in spending power when they use their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets.
Though farmers markets can offer competitive pricing on many items that can be found at your typical grocery store, the reality is that a family’s SNAP budget is often their entire food budget for the month. Therefore, scarce food dollars lead to some tough food choices for Evanstonians on a tight budget. That means that those families who share our love for fresh fruits and vegetables are forced to select less nutritious foods in order to put any food on the table. But farmers markets are stepping up to help families with low-incomes stretch their SNAP dollars further. And that’s what we’re here for.
Our key goals from the beginning have been:
- Ending hunger– improve access to farmers’ markets by enabling low income individuals to purchase healthier food items they may not usually be able to afford.
- Promoting health– improve the way people think and eat healthy through increased access and ease to farmers markets
- Boosting the economy– increase the amount of public benefit dollars earned by local Illinois farmers while promote the economic interest of small businesses.
- Protecting the environment– support vendors who use sustainable agricultural practices.
Results so far: Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets has stimulated increased spending of public benefits on healthier food. The downtown Evanston markets reported increased SNAP spending from $2000 in 2011 to $36,000 in 2014.
How to Benefit From Friends
You can utilize the Friends SNAP matching program if you are a Link card user. The first step is to find us at the downtown Evanston market on Saturdays. If you use your Link card at the downtown farmers market to cash in your SNAP benefits for tokens that can be used throughout the market. In addition to fruits and vegetables, other SNAP eligible foods include meat, jams and jellies, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts, fresh juice, breads and other baked goods, honey, plant starts, and edible seeds.
Using LINK Tokens: Some Facts
There are just a couple of things to remember when spending your LINK tokens at the Downtown Farmers Market.
- The colors are important.
- Although City of Evanston LINK benefits don’t expire, you can only use tokens issued this year. This year’s colors are pink ($1) and black (5). If you have tokens from previous seasons, brink them to the City’s tent on market days and they will exchange them.
- Friend’s of Evanston Farmers Markets matching tokens DO expire. This year’s white ($1) and green ($5) are only good until the final market, November 7, 2015. If you have Friends tokens from previous seasons, they cannot be used to purchase goods at the Market.
- That means you should always use the FEFM matching tokens first, especially towards the end of the market season.
- Vendors cannot give change when purchase are made with LINK tokens. Your purchase has to be “exact change.”