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Experimental Station Breaks Down Why Food Stamps At Farmers' Markets Work

By Jon Graef in Food on Feb 16, 2014 7:30PM

Experimental Station is a non-profit which takes its name from a Frank Lloyd Wright speech, and is self-described as being devoted to testing and advocating "food models that work for vulnerable communities, make the most out of the donated dollar, support local farmers, and sustain the regional ecology."

To that end, Experimental Station runs the 61st Street Farmers Market, located at 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. near the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods, respectively. The market does a lot for the community, especially with its "Market School" series.

Most significantly, the market not only accepts LINK cards and Senior Farmers Market Coupons, but also matches LINK purchases up to $25 per cardholder. As Experimental Station itself states: "This means that LINK cardholders can double the value of their LINK purchases each week at the Market."

Here's a more in-depth explanation of what that means, via a recent blog post from Experimental Station about their 2013 food stamp sales:

To ensure everyone in our community has access to fresh, clean food we offer the DVCP (Double Value Coupon Program) so that every LINK (food stamps in Illinois) shopper's purchase is matched up to $25 per market day. DVCP puts healthy food within reach of all budgets and invites low income shoppers to get a direct connection to where their food is coming from. Local small farms and food vendors take in more revenue from LINK purchases when there is a DVCP match.

The end result? "In the right food environment, LINK shoppers consistently make healthy choices," Experimental Station writes.


When fresh produce and other healthy food is available and affordable, there is a strong preference for it. Raising our food environments to the healthy and equitable levels typically found at farmers markets results in LINK shoppers making healthy and well-balanced food choices.

When more produce is available during peak harvest season, LINK shoppers buy more of it.

According to Experimental Station, more than half of LINK and DVCP purchases were fresh fruits and vegetables. "Farm-fresh, unprocessed foods clearly account for the lion's share of sales," the post says.

Additionally, more than three-quarters of LINK shoppers said that the "value double incentives brought them to the market," and 85 percent of shoppers said they bought "more fresh produce as a result of the incentives."

The Experimental Station post provides compelling, even irrefutable, proof that using food stamps at farmers markets is a good thing. The next indoors Farmers Market for the 61st Street Farmers Market will be Feb. 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Details here.

The 61st Street Farmers Market is located at 6100 S. Blackstone Ave.