Butler bill would ensure fresh produce is available under SNAP benefits
Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) wants to ensure that fresh produce is available statewide with Supplemental Nutrition Association Program (SNAP).
HB4568, introduced by Butler, eliminates the sunset of the Healthy Local Food Incentives Program enacted in the 99th General Assembly and makes the pilot program permanent, allowing SNAP benefits to be doubled at local farm markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.h
“We would like to eliminate the deadline, and hopefully get some funding for it in the future” Butler said at Tuesday’s House Human Services Committee hearing of the bill that calls for $500,000 in appropriations.
Connie Spreen, executive director with the Experimental Station which runs the 61st Street Farmers Market in Chicago, told the panel that in the last year a University of Illinois at Chicago review completed by 263 SNAP customers showed 86 percent of those surveyed said the double value allows them to purchase more fruits and vegetables.
“Seventy-six percent reported that shopping at the farmers market has had a positive effect on their health,” Spreen said, adding that making the pilot program permanent is priority.
Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago), a bill co-sponsor, shared the importance of the program that helps assist the transfer of fresh fare to “food desert” areas, and Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) questioned if farmers markets are in fact required to accept SNAP dollars.
“There is not a requirement that they take SNAP benefits, they try to take SNAP benefits,” Spreen said, adding the Experimental Station has educated farmers markets statewide on how to become authorized to accept the benefits over the years. “You do need to be authorized by the Food Services at the USDA (United State Department of Agriculture) prior to being able to accept them.”
Butler said there have been technological issues in reference to SNAP Link cards being used at farmers markets, however the issue is being addressed, most recently in Springfield a few years ago.
Davis asked if there is any resistance to accepting the Link cards.
“There is generally not resistance, but there may be a limited capacity because some farmers markets are so small,” Spreen said, addiding that 32 percent of all farmers markets in the state are SNAP customers.
HB4568 was approved by the panel and moved to the House floor.