This post was written by Annie Lambla, MPC research assistant.
Would you like to see a farmers market in your neighborhood, or find more resources to grow your local market? Things are looking up, on both counts.
This month, the USDA announced $25 million in grants available over the next three years, including $5 million available in 2010, through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). The funds will help local governments and community organizations improve or start local markets. Apply here.
In other good news, a bill was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly (HB 4756) that would create a fund to help farmers markets buy the equipment required to process LINK cards, which are debit cards for people participating in the state’s food stamps program. This is welcome news for markets across the state, because the bill would make it easier for people with food stamps to purchase food from markets. However, more work remains to be done: The bill is getting widespread support, but it would not go into effect until July, 2011, and funding for the program is still not guaranteed. Contact your state representatives to voice your support for this bill.
Chicago’s innovative 61st Street Market, which was featured in a Placemaking Chicago case study, is one of a few Chicago farmers markets to accept food stamps. The market’s organizers say this move has made fresh, healthy food available to even more residents in the South Side neighborhood between Hyde Park and Woodlawn, which is considered a food desert because of its lack of access to fresh food. Local consumers have not been the only ones reaping the benefits, though – accepting LINK has brought more revenue to local farmers and vendors because more local residents are able to afford their produce.
Farmers markets are exceptional examples of place-based, community builders. They bring neighbors out to inhabit the streets together, attract people from nearby communities, and instigate commercial activity for local businesses and regional farmers. In addition to the delicious food they provide, markets are sustainable and resilient economic and social networks that attract and support communities small and large.
Just think about your local market. How does it contribute to your community?