Change brings new problems and new opportunities for society. Several University of Illinois Extension educators serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties have joined a team of city leaders, agencies, and organizations to address the serious need of the lack of adequate access to fresh foods for residents in Peoria’s South Side. The “Local Foods, Local Places: Revitalizing Communities by Growing Local Food Economies” initiative is a great example of how difficult challenges can bring about positive outcomes.
In 2019, Skye became an Illinois Extension SNAP-Ed instructor focused in Mason County.
“I really enjoy teaching the young kids, but it doesn’t matter what age you are, nutrition is important to learn and there is always new information. I aim to educate people to help them increase their knowledge of nutrition and exercise. ”
- Illinois College, Bachelor’s degree in biology with focus in exercise science
EXTENSION SNAP-ED FOCUS AREAS
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) programming in the University of Illinois Extension Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit may have looked different this summer, but one thing was still the same –kids were engaged in STEAM activities and career exploration. 4-H staff developed three video series for youth: STEAM Activities, Storybook Engineering, and Meet a STEAM Professional.
Broadband technologies and applications are an integral part of any economic development effort in today’s economy. Having access to broadband and enhancing people’s knowledge and application of this valuable resource is vital to the social and economic well-being of the region. University of Illinois Extension has worked closely with several partners to provide training and support for broadband expansion locally as well as across the state.
Angela Jimenez, Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program Instructor
“I teach nutrition to youth, teens, and adults in the Peoria area. I teach my clients to eat and cook healthy, work with a budget, and exercise. My goal is to help them be engaging, to be creative, and have fun with their health, so they have a healthy head, heart, and hands.”
One of the less mentioned benefits of being an Extension Master Gardener or Master Naturalist is the time you get to spend with other volunteers learning together and from each other. While shelter-in-place and social distancing protocols are being followed, University of Illinois Extension staff created virtual book study groups for our master volunteers that began in late March with the book Nature’s Best Hope and have continued to a second book.
Local 4-Hers did not let the cancelation of the regular 4-H Shows stop them from exhibiting their 4-H projects with the same pride and skill development as they have shown in the past. Thanks to the hard work, creative thinking, and ingenuity of the University of Illinois Extension staff, 327 youth recently participated in the 4-H Virtual Shows held in Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year Julie Dantone, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education instructor was presented with a unique challenge as she was kicking off the Organ Wise Guys curriculum at Dirksen Primary School in Pekin. How do you teach a child to check their pulse when the child does not have any arms?
Embryology in the Classroom has been a long standing part of University of Illinois Extension’s 4-H program and it continues to grow in classroom participation across Tazewell County. From 2010 to 2019, the number of classrooms participating in the program quadrupled from 8 to 32 classrooms. Approximately 5,000 youth were impacted.
Local eateries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and coffee shops are the social and economic lifeblood of many Illinois communities.
The nationwide Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program began in 1972 when the Washington State Horticulturalist recruited and trained volunteers to help him answer the high volume of calls from the public about gardening. From there the program expanded in scope and grew across the country, but answering the public’s gardening questions is still at the heart of what EMGs do.
Nate Anton, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“I teach nutrition to SNAP-Ed eligible youth and adults in the Peoria area. With the yearly increase of chronic diseases, many of which may be reduced with a healthier lifestyle, our programs are important for our community and country. Through instructing our clients in healthy eating, exercise, and budgeting, we hope to increase the likelihood that they lead a long and healthy life.”
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“I teach young children in preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades about healthy eating and taking care of themselves. Some of my classes are underserved audiences such as Hispanic, hearing impaired, and special needs. I love working with all of the students and seeing them try new healthy foods.”
When Illinois’ stay at home order began in March, University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell (FMPT) Unit staff shifted to working remotely and modified their current programs to continue to meet the needs of our residents, businesses, and local governments. Illinois Extension recently announced plans to continue providing programs in formats that support public health and safety priorities throughout the summer months. Staff and volunteers have approached the shift head-on and have a well-curated line-up of programs and services readily available.
Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, located north of Havana, may be unknown by many people, but for millions of waterfowl, migratory birds, and wildlife it is a very popular place. University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist Carla Montez is helping to educate the public about the value of Chautauqua and the wildlife that live and feed there through educational articles.
“I pledge my hands to larger service...” is part of a pledge that 4-H members have said for many generations. Service to others is one of the main pillars of the 4-H program. 4-H members participate in service projects year-round through their clubs, county, and state-wide opportunities. Typically service projects include face-to-face interactions with others in their communities.
Kountry Kritters 4-H Club in Mason County is one of many 4-H clubs throughout the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit that has made special efforts to connect 4-H club members with adults living in assisted living facilities. The University of Illinois 4-H youth development program recognizes community service plays an important role in developing good citizenship. Community service to older persons is a meaningful way to teach our youth that they can be productive and useful members of the community.
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. You may not hear that word used very often but the fear is very common….except in 4-H alumni. 4-H excels in preparing youth to speak well and speak confidently. It is an important life skill that lasts a lifetime. 4-H staff and volunteers in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties work to offer members many opportunities to learn and practice these skills at the club, county, and state levels.
Eight University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener (EMG) trainees in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit showed up on two chilly days in March at the Peoria Zoo as part of a new approach to official EMG training. It was the beginning of an 18-hour long volunteer skills training program.
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Instructor
“I deliver programming on a level that youth and other audiences can engage, understand, and participate in an exciting and fun setting. We promote eating fresh produce, being wise consumers, and having a healthy mind, body, and environment.”
Since 1999, Irene has been a part of the U of I Extension team. Her work is focused in Peoria County.
Julie Dantone, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“Teaching those of all ages healthy eating habits and physical activity is rewarding, I did not realize there was such a need for food and food education in my community. I am proud to be a part of the SNAP-Ed team. It is satisfying seeing a child eat a fruit for the first time and loving it!”
Volunteers are the backbone of the 4-H program. Each year, University of Illinois Extension Fulton County 4-H selects two 4-H volunteers to recognize for their outstanding volunteer efforts. This year Crista Hartstirn of Fairview was honored as Fulton County 4-H Leader of the Year and Nancy Williams of Smithfield was recognized as Fulton County 4-H Volunteer of the Year.
“These two ladies are the cream of the crop,” mentioned Janis Blout, Fulton 4-H program coordinator.
Four Seasons Gardening Webinar has been an important state-wide program offered by University of Illinois Extension for over two decades. Using technology, Extension horticulture educators are able to teach current horticultural information to a broad audience in Illinois and beyond. Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, horticulture educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties recently presented her first Four Seasons Gardening Webinar.
While the goal of food pantries is always to provide food to all in need, it is also important to provide it in such a way that help guests feel welcome and in control. First Baptist Church Food Pantry in Canton recently converted their layout, policies, and visuals to give guests a shopping experience that more closely resembles a grocery store. University of Illinois Extension, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-ED) staff were part of the team of supporters to make this new format a reality.
Tara Agama, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“I teach preschoolers and early elementary students about healthy eating and how to take care of their organs. Many of my students and their parents tell me they have made healthy changes at home because of our program. I know that I am making a difference.”
For those who have never experienced poverty it is hard to imagine what is involved in navigating that day-to-day life. The stress and uncertainty play out in such ways that drastically impact high school graduation and college attendance rates for children and young adults in Illinois. University of Illinois Extension recently partnered with Dream Center Peoria and East Peoria Junior High to walk the school’s 200+ teachers and staff through a poverty simulation to help participants rethink poverty and become part of the solution.
“I just want people to spend more time outside,” explained University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist Julie Robinson.
This was the passion driving Robinson to build a website called Local OPAL, which stands for Outdoor Playing And Learning, www.localopal.org. She created an online resource that helps everyone easily find publicly accessible outdoor locations in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, and Woodford counties.
A new program called 4-H Tech Changemakers was launched in University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit to empower youth to help close the broadband internet gap. This nationally led program is a partnership between Microsoft and National 4-H Council in which trained teens assist adults to learn new technology and how to use it safely.
With a priority of focusing on food as medicine, University of Illinois Extension staff teamed up with two partners to provide Heartland Health Services pediatric families a bundle of fresh produce in conjunction with nutrition education and resources as part of a 10 week pilot project. Extension staff involved are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed) effort serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. The two partners were University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP) and Peoria Area Food Bank.
Local 4-H members showed their thanks to area farmers in a big way this season. The gift looks small but in reality, it comes with a life-saving message.
Master Gardeners from University of Illinois Extension serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties share a mission to “help others learn to grow.” Perhaps nowhere does this mission play out more directly than at the Peoria Riverfront Farmers Market (PRFM), where they answer hundreds of gardening questions posed by visitors from across Central Illinois and beyond.
Jo Elyn Smith, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program—Instructor
“I reach people in the Peoria community to help them better understand what tools they need to become healthier. This is important to me because each person I reach is different in what they need to become healthier.”