LINK Up Illinois' Impacts
Making healthy farm-fresh foods more affordable by doubling the value of LINK card purchases at farmers markets across the state.
LINK Up Illinois was launched in 2010, in partnership with Wholesome Wave and the Illinois Farmers Market Network.
In its second year, LINK Up Illinois provided technical support, training and matching funds to 20 farmers markets around Illinois, generating over $84,000 in LINK sales. Combined Link and Double Value Coupon Sales totaled $126,477.
In 2012 Link Up Illinois partnered with 38 markets across the state. Combined Link and Double Value Coupon sales reached $227,000.
Our 38 participant markets in 2012 cleared $155,604 of SNAP and $71,396 of DVCP sales. That’s $227,000 spent on locally grown farm fresh foods. Recent research from Moody’s suggests that every $1 of SNAP money spent creates $1.73 for local economies. By this measure, the LINK Up Illinois program benefited the state’s local economies by $392,700 in 2012!
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon Press Release, Jan. 25, 2012
Simon said she wants more Illinois farmers markets to accept food stamp benefits known as LINK to drive up sales at markets – often held in downtown communities – and to spread the health benefits of locally grown, fresh foods.
“I am happy to report that the increases we have seen in LINK sales at farmers markets in recent years have not lost steam,” said Simon, who serves as ambassador to Illinois Main Street. “This is healthy news all around. More low-income residents are gaining access to fresh, healthy foods. Our farmers are finding new buyers. And we’re keeping our communities vibrant places to visit.”
Simon...cited innovative promotions that attract shoppers, such as the LINK Up Illinois program.
The LINK Up Illinois program, launched in 2011, worked with 20 participating markets across the state, including the Illinois Products Farmers Market and Experimental Station’s 61st Street Farmers Market. It provided an extra $43,000 in fresh and healthy food to low-income Illinoisans – at no cost to the buyers – in the 2011 calendar year.
Partner Market Experiences
“The first night of implementing LINK Up surpassed the first eight weeks of the market combined. But that was not the biggest surprise of the evening. What stuck with me was the amount of gratitude LINK cardholders expressed for offering double value funds. The benefit recipients were so grateful to purchase local and fresh produce.”
Kristi Jones, Market Manager, Illinois Products Farmers Market, Springfield
"Through the generous support of LinkUp Illinois, our markets have reached a greater customer base, experienced an increase in LINK sales, and improved the access to healthy, fresh produce in underserved Chicago communities."
Laura Erickson, Market Manager, Green Youth Farm, Chicago
"Our first several months of [offering LINK] showed sustained growth in 2010; however our Market really didn’t see significant growth in LINK sales until we were awarded the LINK Up Illinois grant monies in 2011. The grant encouraged us to promote the market by reaching out to social service agencies such as CEDA-WIC, the Oak Park Housing Authority, Oak Park Township Senior Services, PCC Wellness Center, The Children’s Clinic, and approximately 19 day care centers in Oak Park and surrounding communities. The outreach paid off...in 2011, our LINK and Double Coupon sales grew to an astonishing $7,572.96, so much more than we had anticipated."
Michael T. Charley, Market Liaison, Oak Park Farmers Market
"I have not talked to one person, be it vendor, customer, or community supporter who didn't think LINK Up Illinois was a wonderful idea."
Keith Johnson, Market Manager, Woodstock Farmers Market
Promoting Healthy Foods
Farmers markets provide a key source of healthy, sustainable food. LINK Up Illinois farmers markets ensure that healthy foods are both accessible and affordable for LINK shoppers. Data has shown that, when given the opportunity, LINK shoppers will choose to purchase and consume healthy foods. In a national study of all SNAP purchases, including grocery stores and farmers markets, 20% of benefits were spent on fruits and vegetables. At a sample of 10 farmers markets in Chicago using LINK Up Double Value incentives, 65% of benefits and incentive coupons were spent on fruits and vegetables.