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July 25, 2007

State officials announce $1 million to help low income families and senior citizens afford locally grown fruits and vegetables
Farmers in 24 counties to accept coupons for the Illinois WIC and Senior Farmers Market programs

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. and Department on Aging Director Charles Johnson today announced $1million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the 2007 Women Infant and Childrens (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market programs.  The money will be distributed in the form of coupons to eligible persons to buy produce at the markets.

Both the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs encourage low-income families and seniors to improve their diets while helping America’s family farmers increase their markets for locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

“Everyone, regardless of their financial status, should have access to healthy, affordable foods.  It’s exciting to see this program continue successfully because it not only provides a healthier source of produce for low-income families and seniors, it also improves business for local farmers and promotes fresh, home-grown products,” said IDHS Secretary Adams.

Those vendors accepting WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons this year will see the benefits of an improved farmer redemption process. Instead of batching coupons for delayed payment to farmers, actual checks are now being issued to participants. Booklets containing $3 checks are being provided to WIC participants and seniors between July 1 and October 31 with seniors receiving booklets valued at $21 and WIC participants receiving booklets valued at $15. Upon receiving these checks in exchange for produce, farmers will be able to deposit them for immediate payment.

Checks for WIC participants are distributed to participants during their regular WIC clinic visit while the checks for seniors are distributed at local senior citizens’ centers through the cooperation of the Illinois Department on Aging’s Area agencies on Aging (AAA) and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Illinois’ WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs currently assist more than 200 farmers and 75 community farmers markets in 24 counties will earn additional revenue through the program.  More than 60,000 women, children and seniors have been able to obtain locally grown produce on a regular basis, encouraging long-term consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.  By supporting healthy eating, these programs have become important tools in fighting obesity and poor nutrition in Illinois.

“Good nutrition is essential at any stage in a person's life.  The Illinois Department on Aging is proud to be part of the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program- a program that encourages seniors to improve their diets and get the nutrition they need, while at the same time helps our farmers gain sales,” said Department on Aging Director Johnson.

While the WIC Farmers Market Program was created by Congress in1992, the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) was started as a pilot program in 2000 involving grants awarded to State agencies on a competitive basis. Illinois has been awarded these grants since 2000 and hopes to continue the trend now that SFMNP has become a permanent USDA program.

For more information about these programs, please contact the Illinois Department of Human Services at 1-800-843-6154 (option 5) or you can write to the program unit at the following address:

WIC and Senior Farmer Market Programs
Illinois Department of Human Services
Bureau of Family Nutrition
535 W. Jefferson
Springfield, Illinois   62702


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