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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”