According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in Peoria County has more than doubled since the year 2000. In that same time period University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit has hired four Spanish bilingual staff to serve that population better. Three of those four staff are Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) instructors who use their language skills and cultural understanding to bring cooking classes and nutritional education to youth and adults.
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.
For almost four years, University of Illinois Extension in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit has extended the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to reach not only Peoria but also Tazewell County to help address food insecurity and associated health issues that may arise from it. EFNEP staff teach citizens at food pantries and local organizations to help them better understand nutrition and strategies to buy healthy food on a budget.
Cheryl Russell, Expanded Nutrition Education Program Instructor
“I provide my homemakers with ways and ideas to improve the way they eat. I teach lessons on how to prepare healthy meals, develop healthy eating habits, and physical activities for the whole family. I like to focus on how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Small steps pave the way.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.