Educating people about nutritious foods and exercise is just the first step in helping people improve their health and wellness. Teaching people how to afford and cook the food, where to buy or how to grow the food, and how to have time to manage it all are other important pieces of the puzzle.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The success of a program starts with the instructor who delivers it. University of Illinois Extension has recently hired two new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) instructors who are sure to lead successful programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit. Kaytlin Beekman and Elexus Hampton joined the local SNAP-Ed team this fall.
When your grocery shopping is limited to food pantry selections, eating healthy can be a challenge. A local coalition, Healthy Eating Active Living– Food System Partners (HEAL-FSP), understands the need for additional healthy food options within the charitable food system.
While it is important to educate people about nutritious eating, it is equally important to teach them how they can afford nutritious foods on a budget. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed) staff at University of Illinois Extension staff offer Healthy Cents 12-part series to adults in an online format.
Food plays a substantial role in health, and impacts whether or not people are able to lead an active, healthy life. By working with multiple coalitions, University of Illinois Extension staff, Kaitlyn Streitmatter and Rebecca Crumrine, are making substantial improvements in the food options available to people in need. They have played important roles in mobile food pantries, preferred food drives, and increased involvement in the greenlight identification and labeling system used at food pantries and food banks.
University of Illinois Extension staff from horticulture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed), and 4-H teamed up to provide training to teachers, administrators, parents, and master volunteers with the goal to help them understand how to start and maintain a school garden. The four-session series, held October 2019 through March 2020 attracted 20 people from 15 different organizations.
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
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?
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.
Kellie Roecker, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“I visit classrooms, housing communities, early childhood centers, lunchrooms, and food pantries to provide nutrition education that teaches youth and adults the importance of keeping our bodies healthy from the inside out. My work has a positive effect on the entire family. Kids are excited to share what they have learned with their families and ask for healthy foods.”
Wasted food has been a great challenge at many schools across Illinois. The mantra “It is not nutrition unless it is eaten” is espoused by many school nutrition staff trying their best to ensure students actually consume a nutritious and delicious school meal. SNAP-Education Educator Kaitlyn Streitmatter worked with Beverly Manor Junior High in Washington to research and apply ways to reduce school food waste and increase the amount of healthy foods students eat.
Rebecca Crumrine, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Program Coordinator
“I work with partners, such as schools, food pantries, early childhood centers, and coalitions, to help affect change at a policy, systems, and environmental level so the underserved populations in our counties can sustain a better diet and physical activity routine as well as have improved access to fresh, healthy foods.”
Krista Gray, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor
“One aspect of my job is to teach young children about healthy foods and exercise in order to keep their bodies healthy and strong. Early education with these young kids helps to start them on a path of making good eating choices while having fun and being active.”
Kaitlyn Streitmatter and Kayla Swaar, University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed) Educators from Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit and Logan-Menard-Sangamon Unit respectively, presented at the 2019 National Child Nutrition Conference held in Chicago, IL. With around 1,600 people in attendance, this conference is an opportunity to bring child nutrition professionals together to learn, network, and gain a better understanding of how best to foster a healthy environment for our children.
The work being done through University of Illinois Extension programs and partnerships in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties is recognized for its positive impact at many levels through the University system. College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) dean, Kimberly Kidwell, recently returned for her second unit tour, along with the new Extension director and associate dean, Shelly Nickols-Richardson. The duo spent the day learning about a few of our programs, engaging with unit staff, and networking with volunteers, 4-H members, and partners.
When two more grocery stores closed in 2018 in Southside and East Bluff Peoria neighborhoods, University of Illinois Extension staff joined the team of policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and activists working to eliminate disparities in equitable access to healthy food. The process to fill the gap in access to healthy food in the City of Peoria is a challenge that is multi-faceted but began with conducting a grocery store survey.
The Tazewell County Health Department recently honored Kaitlyn Streitmatter, University of Illinois Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program— Education (SNAP-Ed) educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties, at the 2019 awards banquet. Kaitlyn was one of five members of the Tazewell County community honored with the Margaret Burt Public Health Partnership Award.
Having easy access to healthy foods is not always an option for some residents in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. Staff and volunteers at University of Illinois Extension are working together to provide healthy foods and education about preparing those foods to people in areas considered food insecure.