Experimental Station entered into a strategic partnership with Wholesome Wave in 2009 with the intent of working together to increase access to affordable, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for under-served communities. Wholesome Wave draws upon the experience and collected data of its numerous partners to advocate for changes in national food policy. In addition to policy development and advocacy, Wholesome Wave provides fundraising assistance, technical support, and data collection support to LINK Up Illinois.

The Illinois Farmers Market Association (IFMA) helps to promote LINK Up Illinois to Illinois farmers markets and other direct producer-to-consumer venues through email communications, conference calls and webinars. IFMA workshops provide important opportunities for EBT trainings. The IFMA will continue to provide assistance in identifying potential markets for LINK Up Illinois and advocacy for the program at the state level.

Illinois' expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will create a 97.5% overlap in Medicaid and SNAP eligibility. This means that increasingly in Illinois, Medicaid and SNAP/Link recipients will be the same population. In 2014 Experimental Station partnered with Harmony Health Plan of Illinois, our state's leading Medicaid provider, to ensure that their Medicaid plan members gain access to the fresh and healthy foods sold at Illinois farmers markets. “Harmony is focused on removing the barriers that make it difficult for our members and those who live in the communities we serve to attain and maintain optimal health,” said Dr. Bobby Hilliard, state president, Harmony Health Plan. “One way we are doing this is by supporting programs that make fresh, nutritious food a viable option for everyone, regardless of their income. This particular effort has the added benefit of supporting local farmers and local economies.”

In an effort to demonstrate that eating healthy foods improves one's health outcomes, Experimental Station launched the Eat Up! initiative in 2014 at the 61st Street Farmers Market. Having created the Eat Up! app to record health metrics at the Market, Experimental Station staff takes SNAP/Link customer blood pressure, height, weight, heart rate and other metrics and enters the data into the app. For their voluntary and anonymous participation, LINK customers are rewarded with an additional $5 in Double Value Coupons to spend at the Market, while learning more about their health! Partnering with Harmony WellCare, in 2015, Eat Up! was expanded to five additional markets (Austin Town Hall, Columbus Park, East Side Health F.R.E.S.H. Farmers Market, La Follette Park, and South Shore), bringing the total markets serviced to six. 

If you would like to help support LINK Up Illinois, please contact Connie Spreen, Experimental Station Executive Director, at connie@experimentalstation.org.