Initiative to feed the hungry at farmers' markets

By Alex Davis |

Published 04/17 2014 12:17PM

Updated 04/17 2014 12:22PM

ILLINOIS -- Hundreds of thousands of children in the state go hungry each day. WCIA-3's Alex Davis keeps us Connected to the Capitol.

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon is trying to change that. She's letting farmers' markets know about an incentive to help them make their healthy foods more accessible to the hungry.

It's a feeling you don't wish on your worst enemy; food insecurity or hunger.

"You just don't know where your food is going to come from. You don't have the means to purchase your own food and, most of the time, it's any meal. You don't have the means to actually bring in food and purchase it."

Yet, in our first world, there are millions of people who go hungry each day. Nearly 29,000 children are food insecure in Champaign, Macon, Vermilion and Sangamon counties combined.

"There are a lot of factors that go into why people are hungry in this country."

Among them; affordability and accessibility.

"We try to provide the most nutritious food that we can provide."

But, with donations from big box stores, they can't always do it. That's one reason Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is urging all farmers' markets to accept SNAP benefits at their markets.

"To help farmers' markets to make sure they are reaching as many people as possible, uh, because it's obviously not getting food onto the plates of those who need it. But, it's good business sense for farmers who are involved, for the markets and for the communities who see more people coming into town to participate in a farmers' market."

So, the people who need healthier options can get them.

"Healthy food is something that's a long-term investment in good health for the individual."

Currently, 97 of 375 farmers' markets, in Illinois, accept SNAP. But, Simon wants it to expand, offering incentives to operators of farmers' markets to apply for grant funding to make it happen.

"When you're talking about fresh food and farmers' markets, we're winners all the way around."

$1,200 grants are being awarded to help cover the cost of the swiper machine and a year's worth of internet access. After that, the market would have to sustain it.

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