Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon met with vendors at the Downtown Elgin Harvest Market Thursday to advocate for locally grown foods.
Simon said more markets statewide should accept Link cards so all residents can access locally grown products. The Elgin Harvest Market accepts Link cards, but is in the minority of markets statewide that do.
"I'm trying to promote more farmers' markets to do what's being done here in Elgin," she said. "If you're a family struggling financially, you can still get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables into your family's diet. That's healthy for the families, it's also really healthy for the Illinois economy, so we're all winners here today thanks to the folks who organized this great farmers market in Elgin."
Simon chairs the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, which is working to increase access to local foods as a way to promote healthier eating and spur economic development. She is visiting farmers' markets statewide to promote Link access.
Elgin Harvest Market manager Jennifer Benson led Simon on a tour, stopping in booths to talk to vendors, including Annie Rubino of D + A Bee Yard in Carol Stream and Chris Prchal of Trogg's Hollow Veggies in Poplar Grove.
Known for her banjo playing, Simon performed an impromptu three-song set while visitors sang along to "This Land is Your Land," "La Bamba" and "Down by the Riverside."
About a quarter of Illinois' 400 markets have the technology necessary to run the cards that access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps. A new Illinois program could help change that.
Illinois markets can now receive free wireless point-of-sale terminals through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Xerox, MerchantSource and Total Merchant Services.
Roughly one in six Illinois residents rely on Link for food purchases.