Some shoppers have been deterred from buying locally-grown produce at farmers markets because of difficulty using government food assistance programs at the market.

Some shoppers have been deterred from buying locally-grown produce at farmers markets because of difficulty using government food assistance programs at the market.

That situation is changing as farmers’ markets throughout the country are starting to accept food stamp benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The West End Market, now in its second year at Church Street and Dodge Avenue in Evanston, is one of those markets.

Thanks to its sponsor, the Evanston Community Development Corporation, the market now accepts the Illinois Link Card, an electronic card used to process food and cash assistance benefits authorized under several federal and state programs. The Market also accepts both Senior Discount and WIC coupons.

“This is a real boon to the community,” says Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. “This is the first step in educating people about the benefits of fresh produce and making it a large part of their daily food intake.“

The West End Market operates from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 31.

A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that women with low incomes who received funds to shop at farmers’ markets ate three more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

“It’s not clear why mothers (in the study) visiting a farmers’ market wound up buying more vegetables than grocery store shoppers,” a report on the study in the New York Times noted, “but some women told the researchers that the produce sold at markets seemed to be fresher and of higher quality than supermarket offerings.

“Many shoppers also said they enjoyed the pleasant community experience and the chance to interact directly with growers the authors noted.

Holmes says she’s excited about both those findings, because “that’s exactly what we offer at the West End Market: a place to shop, mingle, see your neighbors and get out on a Saturday.”

In addition to produce, West End Market shoppers can buy apple cider; baked goods from local churches and a Chicago-based bakery; body-care products; hand-crafted purses, linens and decorative items; and green household products.” The Market also will be featuring live music by local performers.

As well as providing providing goods, the West End Market works to create community partnerships and boost the economic vitality of the neighborhood.

More information on the West End Market is available online or by calling 847-756-0159. Market organizers are also seeking new crafts vendors, non-profit bake sales and entertainers.

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  1. Does anyone know which
    Does anyone know which farmers sell at this market?

    I pass by it on my way to the Downtown Farmers Market and it generally looks desolate and bereft of actual farmers!

    Since the Downtown market is only 8 blocks away, there is no incentive to shop at this market.

    Their website isn’t very informative, either. I might be more inclined to visit West End if they held it mid-week, after my Downtown market supplies have dwindled.

    1. Keep passing it by…
      It will continue to look “desolate” if shoppers like you keep passing it by.

      You shouldn’t rely on others opinions. Next time stop and spend some time there. As a community we share in the responsibility of keeping our local vendors afloat (east & west).

      1. Need to listen to the customer
        A previous post was thoughtfully written by a potential customer. Here are her observations concerning the West End Market:

        It looks desolate. The Downtown Market is held at the same time and it’s not that far away. A mid-week market at West End might attract this customer because her Downtown Market fruits and veggies would be gone. I don’t see where the potential customer is “rely[ing] on others’ opinions.”

        To argue that this potential customer just needs to get out there and spend money as paying a civic duty turns the commercial world on its head.

        Any commercial venture (including a farmers’ market) needs to listen to the customers and potential customers. Scolding people that we have “the responsibility of keeping our local vendors afloat (east & west)” ignores this potential customer’s well-articulated and very legitimate concerns.

        No one has a “responsibility” to shop some place that does not meet their needs. The commercial venture should want to convert potential customers to actual customers. Lectures about civic responsibility will not convince people to spend their hard-earned dollars. Meeting the potential customer’s needs — that’s what brings in revenue.

        Perhaps the organizers of the West End Market would be well served to consider the potential customer’s observations?

        1. hear hear
          Although I agree with most of your posting, I would make the argument that the West End Farmers market is listening to their customer base. This Farmers Market is focused on the neighborhood, which is mainly low-income citizens. (as evidenced by their request to accept government aid cards)

      2. Nice
        Nice comment – is this the activist view here in Evanston.

        Attack the individual that questioned the Farmer’s Market desolute appearance!? Probably.

        I am sure if you had your way, it would be mandated by Evanston ordinance that residents only shop in Evanston.

        Maybe his comment is a wake up call to Evanston’s downtown retail presence, and perhaps the need for the farmer’s market to better advertise itself.

        If you build it, they may come. But if no one knows about it, they will go somewhere else.

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