Deb Donaldson discussing nutrition to others

Deb Donaldson has worked with many young children, teens, new moms, and elderly people during her 19 years as an EFNEP instructor. She enjoys teaching nutrition and cooking skills.

“I help a wide variety of people (youth, teens, new moms, elderly, etc.) learn how to eat better, cook homemade food, follow a budget, and live a healthier life.  I’ve done this long enough to see how the new skills people learn gets passed down to their children and grandchildren.”

Examples of Deb's Program Partners

Profile picture of Mari Lopez

Mari was hired to the University of Illinois Extension EFNEP team in 2016. She became the second English-Spanish bilingual team member.

“I teach nutrition program to children, teens, and adults in the Peoria area. I teach them how to cook and exercise as well as encourage them to be healthy. My goal is to give them a better view of a healthy lifestyle they can use every day.”


  • University of Illinois Extension EFNEP, teamwork award for teen cooking schools 2019


People approaching food tent

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.

Angela teaching cooking class

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.”

Irene Edwards teaching a boy and a girl to use a grater

Irene Edwards

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.

Profile picture of Jo Elyn Smith

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.”

Cheryl Russell staff photo

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.”

Man receiving food sample

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.

Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson shaking hands with a 4-H teen

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.

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.