Let Friends Bring Food to Your Table

All Evanston farmers’ markets accept Illinois SNAP benefits through Illinois Link cards, and Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets have matched SNAP dollars since 2011.

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 doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar. In other words, families and Link card users can get twice the dollar value 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 Mission

Our key goals from the beginning have been:

  1. 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.
  2. Promoting health– improve the way people think and eat healthy through increased access and ease to farmers markets
  3. Boosting the economy– increase the amount of public benefit dollars earned by local Illinois farmers while promote the economic interest of small businesses.
  4. 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.

Our Efforts & Plans

Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets aims to bring the following to our community:

 Market Programming

  • Evanston School District-facilitated activities at market advocating healthy eating and building an understanding of sustainable agriculture
  • Professional chef programming highlighting localism and how to best enjoy our farmers market products
  • Recognized experts to talk with market-goers about topical and current food-related subjects

 Educational Publications

  • Our website & blog
  • Weekly email newsletter
  • Recipes featuring market offerings
  • Nutritional information outlining the facts, benefits, and uses of in-season produce
  • Sharing of news/editorial articles relevant to our mission

Community Outreach

  • Raise awareness of our farmers markets and the benefits of healthy eating to community members at local senior housing, food shelters, houses of worship, and community centers
  • Publicize our Link Bonus Program to community members most in need of the benefit
  • Host a 2015 Film Festival to inform on sustainable agriculture and food insecurity
  • Coordinate outreach activities with local community organizations who share missions in line with ours
  • Communicate with the Evanston community about the importance of farmers’ markets for health and economy in an Evanston RoundTable editorial