SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Low-income shoppers are taking advantage of opportunities to buy healthy food, by using their LINK cards at farmers’ markets.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said in a news release Monday that the amount of LINK card food stamp benefits redeemed at farmers’ markets rose from $11,146 to $41,146, an increase of 269 percent, from 2009 to 2010.

Access to farmers’ markets for LINK Card users was improved last year, with 35 markets receiving authorization to accept the benefits, Simon said in the news release.

Statewide, 49 farmers’ markets now accept LINK cards.

“We are seeing a promising trend: more farmers markets accepting LINK and more food stamp benefits being used to buy locally produced, fresh food,” Simon said in the release. “But with over 300 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers in Illinois, there is room to thrive. I am committed to helping expand LINK usage at farmers markets to improve the health and economy of our state.”

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