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May 29, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich announces nine more counties to help low income families and seniors at farmers markets
Farmers in 35 counties to participate in Illinois WIC and Senior Farmers Market programs for locally grown fruits and vegetables

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that an additional nine counties will participate in the 2008 Women Infant and Children’s (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market programs.  Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. and Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson said funding for the program comes from a grant of nearly $1 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The money is distributed in the form of coupons to eligible persons to buy produce at the farmers markets.  The expansion comes as rising food prices push families to look for affordable ways to purchase healthy foods and produce. 
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.  The program served 74,000 women, infants and seniors in Illinois last year.
“The WIC and Senior Farmers Market programs not only provide a healthier source of produce for low-income families and seniors, they also improve business for local farmers and promote fresh, home-grown products,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “Everyone, regardless of their financial status, should have access to healthy, affordable foods.” 
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.  WIC participants can receive the FM checks when they are in the WIC office receiving services during the months of June through September.  
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 Area agencies on Aging (AAA) and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The Illinois WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs currently assist more than 300 farmers.  Seventy-five community farmers markets in 35 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,” said IDHS Secretary Adams.  “By supporting healthy eating, these programs have become important tools in fighting obesity and poor nutrition in Illinois.”
Expanding the WIC and Senior Farmers Market program builds on Gov. Blagojevich’s earlier efforts to help families obtain healthy and nutritious foods.  In March, 1.5 millions pounds of food was delivered to the Illinois Food Bank Association (IFBA) to feed 37,500 families in need.  Food banks are also buying fresh fruits and vegetables from area farmers markets as they come into season.
While the WIC Farmers Market Program was created by Congress in 1992, 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.
Eight farmers markets have been approved to accept the Link Card this year: Logan Square Farmers Market; 61st Street Farmers Market; Green City Farmers Market; Englewood Farmers Market; and Wood Street Farm Stand, Chicago, Old Town Market, Belleville and Galesburg Business Association Farmers Market, Galesburg, and Susie’s Garden Patch, Garden Prairie.  Customers can use their Link cards to buy locally-grown produce.
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
New WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Counties:
Boone County Health Department
DeWitt/Piatt Bi-County Health Department 
Logan County Health Department
Marshall County Health Department 
McHenry County Health Department
McLean County Health Department
Moultrie County Health Department
Pike County Health Department
Union County Health Department
Currently funded WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Counties:
Adams County Health Department
Champaign County Public Health Department
Coles County Health Department
Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA)
Cook County Department of Public Health       
DeKalb County Health Department
Edgar County Health Department
Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department
Jackson County Health Department
Jefferson County Health Department
Kankakee County Health Department
Lake County Health Department
Macon County Health Department
Marion County Health Department
McDonough County Health Department
Morgan County Health Department
Peoria City/County Health Department
Perry County Health Department
Rock Island County Health Department
St. Clair County Health Department
Sangamon County Department of Public Health
Vermilion County Health Department
Washington County Health Department
Winnebago County Health Department


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