Skip to main content

4-H youth help reach those in need locally

URBANA, Ill. – 4-H is invested in feeding hungry families, and youth are leading the way. The 4-H Food Advocacy Grants program is aimed at helping youth become food advocates right in their own communities.

The grants provide financial support to youth-led projects aimed at increasing food security throughout Illinois.

“Our project will address food security in DuPage County by providing a healthy, balanced snack for children that might otherwise not be able to afford one,” says grant recipient Justin Gergen of DuPage County. “Our goals are to promote positive eating habits through the variety of items in our snack bags and to serve as many youths as possible within the budget. In addition, the selected items are low-cost, should the recipient choose to purchase the snacks at a later time on their own.”

This grant program allows recipients to identify a need in the community and create a youth-led program or initiative to create change.

“Our goal is to provide weekend backpacks of non-perishable foods that could easily be made into a meal for students as well as two meal kits,” says grant applicant Amanda Fox Clark of Washington County. “Our meal kits also include family-friendly conversation starters and health activity ideas and a virtual session in which staff will ‘unbox’ the kit with the families from the comfort of their own kitchen to help encourage youth to cook alongside their parents."

In this round, 11 winners from seven counties were chosen.  This is the fourth round of grants, with $25,000 being dispersed to help increase food access since the program began in January of 2020.

Winners include: Weekend Backpack & Meal Packaging Project, Washington County; Continuing to Fight Hunger One Meal at a Time Project by the Macoupin County Hunger Ambassadors, Macoupin County; National Teachers Academy Community Garden Initiative, Cook County; CPS Go Green Mini Pantry, Cook County; Hydroponic Tower Project by the Big Green 4-H Club, Cook County; CPS The Wolverine Aid Project, Cook County; PADS After School Snack Bags by the Trinity Trailblazers, DuPage County; Community Action Project by the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club, Edwards County; West Salem Lunch Buddies Project by the Yankee 4-H Club, Edwards County; Emergency Mini Food Pantry Expansion Project by the Olympia Pacesetters 4-H Club, McLean County; and the Touch My Heart Fresh Market by the Touch My Heart 4-H Club, Will County.

The grant initiative creates a network of youth leaders around Illinois who are personally invested in creating food security in their community. 

“We hope to build a leadership team of youth who are interested in fighting hunger in our communities and give them the tools through this experience to grow as leaders,” says Fox Clark.

Support for this grant program comes from COMPEER Financial, The BRANDT Foundation, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. 

Source: Mark Becker, 4-H Youth Development Specialist,

Writer: Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office,