Grants Help Fund New Healthy Ways Card at Market
Starting at the end of August 2020, people who utilize Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the Old Capitol Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings are being upgraded to a new, scannable card that replaces the tokens that have been used for years.
Since COVID started, the Market has seen a 15% increase in spending by SNAP users. Comparing August 2020 to August 2019, there is a 34% increase in shoppers utilizing SNAP benefits.
The new “Healthy Ways” scannable card features the Old Capitol Farmers Market logo on it as well as individualized data for each SNAP user. The Healthy Ways application and credit card design was originally invented to decrease the stigma for SNAP users having to use bulky, bright tokens. For organizers of the Old Capitol Farmers Market, the need for the new cards also increased this season as staff worked to eliminate unnecessary “touches” between shoppers and vendors.
“We’re excited to be able to offer this new system that is more consumer friendly and vendor friendly, especially in the time of COVID,” said Kayla Graven, manager of the Market and assistant director of DSI. “Access to fresh and local foods has never been more important as our community and nation deals with the pandemic. We are grateful for our community partners who provided us with COVID relief grants to make this program possible, including the United Way, Community Foundation, and AARP.”
Most of the costs of launching the Healthy Ways program were covered by a $2500 grant in April from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Greater Capital Region of Illinois provided by United Way and the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln.
Additional costs to implement “Heathy Ways,” as well as additional costs generated by DSI’s work to pivot the Market to a safer shopping environment during COVID, are being covered by a COVID grant of $5,840 from AARP. DSI was told that AARP’s Community Challenge program enjoyed “a highly competitive grant year and your work and mission stood out.” The Old Capitol Farmers Market is welcoming an average of 3,000 shoppers each week, making it the largest outdoor activity happening in Sangamon County during COVID.
To receive the new cards, shoppers with SNAP benefits should stop by the Market Information tent at 4th and Adams. This is also the place to reload a card; each scannable card is linked to an individual’s EBT account. Every vendor who can accept SNAP can also scan the back of the card to redeem the amount of purchase. The card can only be used at the Old Capitol Farmers Market.
Other benefits for the shopper include: outstanding tokens can be turned in and added to the card; shoppers no longer having to remember and carry bulky tokens; shoppers can look up one’s balance online; and shoppers can stop payment if the card should be lost.
Shoppers using SNAP at the downtown market enjoy a dollar for dollar match up to $25 from a grant DSI administers from Experimental Station/LinkedUp Illinois. The funds can only be used to pay for fruits and vegetables at the Market.