two ladies with their backs to the camera stocking shelves at a food pantry

Health and wellness involves more than just nutrition education. People may know the “right foods” to eat or the “bad foods” to avoid, but availability and affordability can also be deciding factors.

man looking in microscope

It can be hard to pull yourself away from the computer or TV and get outside, but it is well worth it. University of Illinois Extension 4-H Youth Development team in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit created a new program to help encourage youth and families to explore the outdoors.

woman looking at and pointing at a tree trunk

Have you ever wanted to know how to identify trees in your yard or wondered why the leaves turn different colors in the fall? University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) are bringing answers to these questions and more to interactive tree walks hosted by Canton Park District.

Smiling child learns how to safely cut vegetables at cooking class

“We are not sure who has more fun at Illinois Junior Chef (IJC)….the youth or the staff,” Kaytlin Beekman, University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Education community worker mentioned. Kaytlin and the entire SNAP-Education team serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties spent a good portion of their summer teaching IJC programs throughout the area.

Children playing while learning about gardening

Sunshine, beautiful gardens, space to play, and educational activities make for a great day. Those are the key elements University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners had in mind as they planned the second annual Young Garden Explorer’s Day at Illinois Central College (ICC). This year’s event almost tripled in attendance with 112 youth and adults exploring the gardens.

Instructor showing student how to intubate a training mannequin

Career exploration is a big part of the 4-H world. Sometimes members are exposed to careers subtly and other times they are the main focus.

Profile picture of Richard Proffer, new Extension community and economic development educator

University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit is pleased to announce Richard Proffer as the new community and economic development educator. He brings a wealth of experience in business retention and expansion work, small business development, economic development, and strategic planning.

Extension Master Gardener working in a community garden

How many people does it take to grow 2,500 pounds of vegetables in one season? In the case of the Morton Giving Garden it takes the whole community.

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) from Tazewell County created the Morton Giving Garden in 2010 to grow and donate fresh produce to local food pantries. The longevity and success of the garden is thanks to the collaboration with several local organizations.

Sign of 4-H window display that says, "We Are Better Together"

Everyone has a fundamental need to feel a part of a group such as a family, a group of friends, or a team. In the 4-H world, it is referred to as a “sense of belonging.” Fostering a sense of belonging is one of the main priorities of the 4-H program within the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, as well as across the state.

Child building a chicken coop with edible items like graham crackers and marshmallow chicks

Experiential learning is a longtime piece of the 4-H philosophy. It is one of the program’s guiding principles that focuses on intentional learning experiences, where the integration of knowledge, skills, and behaviors of formal and non-formal education strategies are applied. Pleasant Workers 4-H Club in Mason County implemented an experiential learning, kid-friendly theme this year called “Lets Learn!”

Rebecca Crumrine and Sandy Anton

The large impact that hunger plays in the health of our communities is something that University of Illinois Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) works to promote in all their work. In March of 2022, Illinois SNAP-Ed had the chance to do this on a larger scale through hosting two Hunger & Health Conferences for charitable food partners and other organizations in Springfield and Oglesby.

Group shot of Annie's Project participants

Farm women are generating a cultural tide in American agriculture that is moving management, assets, and opportunities to a new wave of farmers across the country. In June 2022, sixteen women completed the Annie’s Project course with University of Illinois Extension serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. They were empowered to be better business partners or sole operators through networks and by managing and organizing critical information.

Peggy West standing next to her display at Peoria Art Guild

Art and nature go hand-in-hand for Extension Master Naturalist and artist Peggy West. She uses her skills and expertise to educate and advocate for critical issues of the environment.

dad and daughter planting an oak tree

Youth and adults from Peoria County worked together on a unique community service project that they and others will watch grow for many years and will benefit generations to come.

Julie Dantone demonstrates how to brush teeth

Healthy living is more than just what we eat and drink. Thanks to partnerships, University of Illinois Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education staff in Tazewell County enhanced their standard curriculum with additional hands-on activities and gifts for the youth and adult participants.

Container Gardening

Picture of a recipe and its ingredients

Food is a big part of our lives. It can be part of who we are, where we came from, and how we express ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to food and the holidays.

Picture of Bob Coppernoll, Master Gardener

“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.” - Kirill Korshikov.

4-H members participating in a meeting

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is a question we start asking young people almost as soon as they can talk. And it’s an important question. At its most fundamental level, the question is asking about a young person’s goals – but the conversation should not end here.

Profile picture of Kristi Smith

Kristi Smith has been part of the 4-H program long before becoming the Peoria 4-H program coordinator. She spent ten years involved as a member of the Laura Winners 4-H club and then during her teen years 4-H Federation. Upon her graduation from 4-H, she immediately became a volunteer as the 4-H Livestock Judging coach in Peoria County. Now, she is excited to join the 4-H team at University of Illinois Extension.

Extension Master Gardener working in a community garden

For a few years, new volunteers had the choice to complete the 60-hour Extension Master Gardener training in one of two ways: a face-to-face class or individually online.

Profile pictures of 4-H teen scholarship recipients

To be selected for a state 4-H scholarship is quite an honor, as the competition is steep. University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit is proud to announce that four local 4-H members were selected to receive $1,000 career achievement scholarships as well as one 4-H Sustaining the Future Award.

Local career achievement scholarship winners include:

Picture of canned food on shelf of food pantry

Food pantries serve as an invaluable asset in the community, providing both food and essential household and hygiene products to families in need. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church food pantry in Peoria looked to University of Illinois Extension’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed) for expert advice implementing new systems and policies within their food pantry to better ensure nutritious food is offered and pantry guests’ needs are met.

Elementary age child works on STEM project

Afterschool programs have been a reliable source of support to young people and families who are balancing remote school or work, dealing with the health and economic stressors created by the pandemic, and managing the toll that COVID-19 is taking on their mental health and overall well-being (Afterschool Alliance, 2021).

Master Naturalist Mary Zehner holding binaculars close to face

Volunteer efforts can lead University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists (EMN) on some fun adventures. Sometimes those adventures are as close as their backyard. Citizen Science programs have given EMNs serving in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties opportunities to use their skills and knowledge to impact their communities and beyond.