by Amelia Levin, Junior Board Member
So far this season the Green City Market Junior Board’s Meet the Market events have raised more than $2,100 to support GCM’s LINK matching program. LINK is Illinois’ food assistance program enabling families to purchase wholesome, local and seasonal food.
Thanks to private and state grants, Green City Market now offers each LINK customer up to $10 a day in matching funds. If the Green City Market Board and Junior board secure more funding, however, that number could increase to $20 per day. But they need the community’s help.
Meet the Market events in support of GCM’s LINK matching program take place each month at some of the hottest restaurants around the city. The weeknight, after-work events are free and open to the public, highlighting a farmer and chef each time. Complimentary small bites showcase the farm’s best in season and the hosting chef’s creativity, while the majority of the sales from cocktails – also showcasing local produce – go directly to the LINK program. The events are also a rare chance to talk one-on-one with farmers and ask questions about farming, local, seasonal food and more outside of busy market days.
Last week’s Meet the Market at Farmhouse event netted $472, with apps by Chef Eric Mansavage and cocktails using fresh produce from King’s Hill farm in Southwestern Wisconsin. The previous MTM event at The Bedford showcasing Peter Klein of Seedling, FEW Spirits and delicious creations by Chef Mark Steuer (a Junior Board member) raised $642, surpassing the Junior Board’s goal of raising a minimum of $500 at each event.
Earlier this season, the Junior Board kicked of the MTM series at Sepia with Chef Andrew Zimmerman and Erika Allen of Growing Power, which raised $600, followed by Balena, with Chef Chris Pandel, Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman, René and Bruce Gelder from Ellis Family Farms in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and cocktails by celebrated mixologist Debbi Peek and Death’s Door Spirits. That event raised $588. Funds for LINK ($464) were also raised at Goose Island Farmer’s Market Series Beer Garden event.
Next up is Nellcôte on Thursday, July 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. featuring Mick Klug Farms in St. Joseph, Mich. and the family’s fruits, peas and veggies, along with Chef Jared Van Camp. So come out for some FREE food, Death’s Door cocktails in support of LINK, and meet the farmers, the chefs and some new friends.
Later this summer, look for MTM events at Ada Street (August) and The Signature Room (September).
Have an idea how the Junior Board can improve these events? Can’t make the event but want to donate to LINK anyway? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curious about LINK? Read more about the state and GCM matching program below.
Recent Developments with GCM’s LINK/EBT Token Program:
Last season, Green City Market dramatically increased the amount of LINK/EBT traffic at the market. To accommodate the higher numbers, the market has worked to make the LINK acceptance process less cumbersome for farmers and shoppers. The new system uses no paper. Instead, customers use their LINK card to purchase tokens that they then spend like cash at the market. This system has allowed the market to implement a matching program, by which LINK customers can receive up to $10 in additional funds per day to spend at the market. This program was made possible by grants from the Auer Family Foundation and the LinkUP Illinois Program of the Experimental Station.
GCM’s Farmer Relations and Outreach Coordinator, Kitt Healy, wrote a grant to the Auer foundation last December, and the Market was awarded $3,000 from that group to start the Link matching program. GCM recently received an additional $2,000 from LinkUP Illinois. According to Kitt, the market is currently giving each customer up to $10 a day in matching funds, but could increase that number up to $20 per day if the Green City Market Board and Junior Board can help to secure more funding.
If the Junior Board raises enough money this season, it could sustain the EBT matching program for three to four years.
FAQs about LINK:
LINK vs. EBT vs. SNAP: What’s what?
All of these acronyms refer to the federal nutrition assistance program former known as Food Stamps. Since the programs are administered on a state-by-state basis, LINK refers to the Illinois version of this program. EBT stands for “Electronic Benefits Transfer” which refers to the credit card style of payment. SNAP stands for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” and refers to the national program administered by the USDA and funded through the Farm Bill.
What can be purchased with LINK?
Customers can use LINK tokens to purchase anything at the market except for items that are served hot or ready-to-eat as well as flowers.
Does Green City Market Accept Out-of-State EBT purchases?
Green City Market CAN except EBT cards from other states. Cards do not necessarily need to be LINK. Matching funds, however, may be given for LINK purchases only.
Does the market accept WIC (Women, Infants and Children), SFMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program), or City of Chicago Market Match Coupons?
Some farmers do and some do not. The City of Chicago has its own EBT matching program with matching coupons that cannot, however, be used at Green City. Green City uses the token system instead.