ROCKFORD, Ill. — What do Lime Bikes and a trolley have to do with a farmers market? Both modes of transportation were part of a Farmers Market Week promotion to encourage Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) adult residents to visit their local markets. On August 11, eight adults hopped on a Lime Bike and rode to North End City Market for their first visit to a farmers market.
Many of the 338 adult residents who live at North Main Manor and Oleson Plaza, both Rockford Housing sites, lack transportation to leave their neighborhood for fresh produce. There are two corner stores within walking distance but they have little or no fresh produce.
One possible solution to gain access to seasonal produce is to visit a local farmers market. Rockford currently has four farmers markets; with two of them accepting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits. Fortunately, the two markets that accept SNAP are 0.5 -1.5 miles away from North Main Manor and Oleson Plaza.
After speaking at North Main Manor’s July resident council meeting, Carol Erickson, University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, found out that the majority of them had never been to either market or knew that some markets accept SNAP. One of the obvious solutions to purchasing fresh produce became clear – getting residents to a farmers market.
Erickson met with Rockford Mass Transit (RMTA) to find out about bus options to Rockford City Market and North End Market. During the past year, RMTA partnered with Rockford City Market to provide a free trolley on the west side of Rockford. The trolley route drives past both North Main Manor and Oleson Plaza every Friday night and takes riders to City Market.
Erickson also had multiple meetings with Gwen Jones, Lime Bike General Manager. The shared bike program came to Rockford in April, with the fleet of green bikes scattered throughout the community. Jones decided to help with a bike-to-market program that would provide free access to Lime Bikes for RHA residents during Farmers Market Week.
As a special promotion for Farmers Market Week, Rockford City Market and North End Farmers Market agreed to offer triple-value for SNAP redemption at their markets. If SNAP shoppers spent $10 of their benefits, the LINK Up Illinois program would give them $20 extra for fresh produce. Ten dollars would instantly become $30.
One of the trolley riders sent a text message to the organizer after shopping at the Friday market to share that not only did she go to City Market but she also brought her daughter with and they both bought lots of fresh produce.
Because of the Farmers Market Week promotion and events, Rockford City Market had 21 and North End Farmers Market had 11 new SNAP customers. Between the two markets, SNAP shoppers spent $725 of their benefits and received $1310 of Link Up coupons to spend on fresh, healthy produce.
— University of Illinois Extension – Winnebago County
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