Neighborhood Co-op receives grant to fund participation in Link Up Illinois Program for low-income families

By Emily Cooper, Editor in Chief

The Neighborhood Co-op Grocery in Carbondale has received a new grant to reinstate their participation in Link Up Illinois, which provides low-income families with double the buying power to purchase healthy local produce, according to a press release from the Co-op. 

The program also helps local farmers strengthen their businesses by expanding their customer base. Experimental Station, a non-profit organization based in Chicago, funds the program with support from the USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program and other corporate, city and private funding sources, the release said.

“This program has a positive impact on the southern Illinois region,” Francis Murphy, general manager of the Co-op, said. “The Co-op actively seeks ways to be more inclusive of our community and to make shopping more affordable for people of all economic backgrounds. This grant allows us to offer healthy incentives for customers and to help our local farmers, as well.”

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Amy Dion, branch manager of the Co-op, said their customers who benefit from the program say it has changed their lives.

“Sometimes they get emotional when sharing their personal stories with us, which is both humbling and gratifying,” Dion said. “We’re grateful for the grant and the support we receive, so we can continue to help people buy healthy food without breaking their budgets.” 

How it works: 

According to the release, when a Link participant shops at the Neighborhood Co-op and uses their Link card, they can earn up to $25 per day towards the purchase of local fruits and vegetables. 

Link Match benefits are matched $1 for $1 on the first $25 spent with a Link card, the release said. Link Match dollars collected at the Co-op can then be used to buy local fruits and vegetables. 

Link Match creates opportunities for more affordable food and rebuilds relationships between local agricultural producers and consumers, the release said. Experimental Station, provides participating markets with training and technical assistance for implementing these programs successfully. 

“Link Match has helped farmers sell double the amount of local goods to the Co-op this year, which helps them achieve financial success with less waste,” Chris Neville, produce manager at the Co-op, said in the release. “Everybody wins with this program.”

Editor in Chief Emily Cooper can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ECooper212.

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