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Volunteers take on food challenge

By Julie Wurth/The News-Gazette URBANA — They can give up meat, they can give up snacks, but Lord help them if you take away their coffee.

Volunteers taking part in a challenge to eat on a food stamp budget for a week are finding the hardest part may be giving up their morning caffeine.

Brenda Koester didn’t even try.

“I’m doing a cheater’s version,” Koester, coordinator of the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center, said Monday morning, the second day of her challenge. She is simply not counting her daily cup of Strawberry Fields coffee.

The News-Gazette/Jim Hires, left, Exec. Director and Cheryl Precious, director of

Convenience stores netting more local food stamp dollars as usage soars

By Pam G. Dempsey — Champaign native Miesha Jones spends the $315 a month she receives in federal food assistance benefits at Sam’s Club.

Jones, the single mother of a three-year-old daughter, usually takes her monthly shopping trip to the bulk food club or, on occasion, Wal-Mart.

CU-CitizenAccess/The number of convenience stores accepting food stamps has increased in Champaign County over the past three years. The use of food stamp spending at these stores has some health officials worried over the lack of fresh and nutritional food choices.

Farmers markets offer better access to fresh foods for low-income families

By Jhane Reifsteck— Local farmers markets in Champaign and Urbana, IL have started accepting LINK cards, creating more options for low-income people and families to obtain fresh foods.

CU Citizen Access/ A woman shops at a farmers' market in Urbana. Local farmers markets have started to accept government benefits such as food stamps as payment for goods, giving receipients more fresh food options.

Federal food programs see local increase in need

CHAMPAIGN -- With more than 1.5 million people enrolled in the federal food benefit program, Illinois is among the top six states in the nation receiving the most federal help feeding its residents - following Texas, California, New York, Florida and Michigan.

This past February marked a record high for the federal food stamp program since its inception during the Great Depression as more than 32 million families claimed benefits. Now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, low-income families buy food at participating retailers using an electronic card, much like a debit card.

The News-Gazette/ Shytiesha Hedrick,12, of Champaign gets potatoes from Lincoln´s Challenge Academy Cadet Christian Gallardo during the food giveaway at the Boys & Girls Club in Champaign recently.

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