Pictured above from left to right: Laquitsha Bejoile-Hayes from the University of Illinois Extension and staff from the Belleville Farmer's Market - Dan (Manager), Kathy and Tim.
February 1st marked the kick-off for the Fresh Produce Voucher Program that will serve the communities surrounding the Belleville Old Town Market and the brick and mortar Farmers Markets located in Belleville. The University of Illinois Extension and the HEALTHIER TOGETHER Chronic Disease Prevention work group created a task force to head this program and ensure its success. It began in summer 2019 where the program was only available seasonally due to the Belleville Old Town Markets availability. Expanding it this year will bring year round access to fresh produce within the local community. Last summer, a state grant program allowed for the Belleville Old Town Market to accept SNAP/LINK programming, bringing healthy food accessibility to families utilizing these programs. HSHS St. Elizabeths Hospital also gave 500 fresh produce vouchers that were valued at $5.00 each to be used toward fresh produce purchases.
Along with the expansion of access, this year the voucher amount has also been increased to maximize their benefit for the user. The continuation of this program for 2020 has been made possible in part by a contribution from HEALTHIER TOGETHER, HSHS St. Elizabeths Hospital, and the St. Clair County Health Department. The hope is that through the distribution of these vouchers, we can increase community access to fresh produce while also bringing awareness to healthier access points that accept SNAP/Link. Vouchers will be made available and distributed through partnering agencies including Franklin Elementary School, Abe Lincoln Elementary School, the Gateway Region YMCA Subsidized program, Interfaith Pantry, WIC Clinic, Union Methodist Church, the Violence Prevention Center, and SIHF Healthcare. Vouchers will have a 30 day expiration date and will be valued at $10. They can be applied towards the purchase of fresh produce at the above mentioned market locations.