Last week I got to witness a perfect storm moment: all the things I’ve been working so hard to accomplish with our farmers’ market wrapped up in one family encounter. We had held a promotional drawing the previous week to draw more Parkland College students out to the market. One reason I had worked so hard to get Parkland students out was knowing that a significant number of the student body receive SNAP benefits. The winner of the drawing turned out to be one of those SNAP recipients. When she attended the market the previous weekend she was actually incredibly moved by the fact that we offered the SNAP matching program. So she turned up not just to pick up her gift bag, but also to swipe her card again and get $20 off her account, plus $20 from The Land Connection. This time, she had also brought along her kids, and she divided her tokens up between them. She explained that she had brought them out so they could learn how to shop at the market: how to browse, pick out something they wanted, and carry out the whole transaction. This time I was the one truly moved. This is exactly what we want to see at the market–families learning about local food together and figuring out what they want. Making local food accessible to everyone, and not just a luxury for fancy people.
This month I’m incredibly excited to announce that we’re making local food even more accessible with our new October Fruit & Veggie Bonus. Thanks to a generous grant from Link Up Illinois, we can essentially triple SNAP benefits throughout the month. We will be offering an additional produce bonus for Link cardholders on top of our regular match, which means Link recipients can get up to $40 extra to spend every week. Already this season we’re thrilled have given away double the matching funds as the first season, which means thousands of dollars have been given out to help struggling families expand their food budgets, all while supporting our local farmers.Triple SNAP will be good for us all: good for the farmers, good for the local economy, and good for families like the one I described above.
When I talk to people about the market in October, their first question is usually, “wait, you’re still open?” Indeed we are, and the Champaign Farmers’ Market still features plenty of great fall produce, including apples, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, greens, eggplant, potatoes and much more. Greens are back now that the heat has broken, and you can also stock up on storage veggies, like squashes and sweet potatoes that can last all winter in a cool, dry basement or garage.Thank you to all our farmers and our generous supporters for keeping the market going. You’ve still got four Tuesdays to pick up great local produce in Downtown Champaign. Come enjoy these gorgeous afternoons with us at the market during our new fall hours from 3:30-6:30 and check out the great variety we have to offer!