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Extension project focuses on collaboration to increase healthy food access and improve child nutrition

Sterling, Ill. – One in 10 people in Illinois struggles with hunger every day, including one in eight children, according to Feeding America. When families are hungry, making healthier choices can be even more difficult. A new project in Whiteside County, focused on healthy food access, was recently allocated funds through University of Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).

The Health Equity Achieved Together Project is a multi-disciplinary project with Illinois SNAP-Ed and other programs within University of Illinois Extension. Programs will develop and implement innovative strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce community barriers to healthier lifestyles. Working with others across Extension enables the HEAT Project to leverage their expertise and networks across Illinois, thereby maximizing the positive impact on the health of Illinois families. 

Whiteside Wellness Wheels will improve the nutritional quality and delivery system of United Way of Whiteside County’s summer meal program. This program is entirely run by volunteers and funded by donations. In addition, the project will implement a healthy foods access committee consisting of Extension staff, United Way, Sauk Valley Foodbank, and other key community partners. 

“Our HEAT Project is a distinct opportunity to build collaboration in our community to ultimately improve and increase healthy food availability for those who need it most,” says Veronica Skaradzinski, Extension SNAP-Ed educator.

In addition, HEAT Project awardees will engage with local stakeholders and community members as they design and implement their initiatives. Projects will also plan sustainability and inclusion strategies to ensure that the projects have long-lasting community impact.