Kane County officials are pleased with the growth in the use of Link cards at farmers markets in Elgin and Aurora this year.
The use of the debit-style food stamp cards helps meets the goal of getting more local produce to low-income children, Jane Maxwell, the coordinator of the Making Kane County Fit for Kids program, told the county board's agricultural committee this week.
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And maybe it will help improve another statistic, revealed in the Growing for Kane Health Impact Assessment: that only 10 to 12 percent of residents of the northern and southern ends of the county eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, compared to almost 25 percent of the county's central residents. The assessment was also presented to the committee.
Maxwell's report showed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients used their Link cards to spend $25,717 at the Downtown Harvest Market in Elgin and at the three farmers markets in Aurora.
Their spending was also matched by $6,323 for the Elgin shoppers by BMO Harris Bank, and $3,065 at the Aurora markets by Wholesome Wave and Old Second National Bank. Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit organization working on food and health issues in low-income communities nationwide. The matching program is organized by Link Up Illinois.
The county used grant money to give the markets the equipment to process the EBT cards.
Maxwell also noted that the Elgin market also started taking credit and debit cards, and that $3,753 was spent that way.
Her report also touched on the use of local foods -- those produced within 100 to 150 miles -- by Kane County school districts. The USDA has a Farm-to-School program that provides technical and financial assistance. St. Charles School District 303 spent 24 percent of its food budget on local products in fiscal year 2011-12, according to Maxwell. The top items it purchased were apples, peppers, beans, lettuce, corn and milk.