People filling out paperwork on a desk

Rural communities throughout Illinois and across the nation struggle to maintain population, jobs, and schools. The COVID-19 pandemic created even more challenges; however, a collaborative group of community leaders in Fulton County was already at work addressing the challenges, positioning their communities for growth through the challenges. That advance work helped obtain state and federal funding support, that yielded four grants worth more than $8 million.

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.

scaling up info graphic

Local eateries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and coffee shops are the social and economic lifeblood of many Illinois communities.

School staff learn about challenges of living in poverty

For those who have never experienced poverty it is hard to imagine what is involved in navigating that day-to-day life. The stress and uncertainty play out in such ways that drastically impact high school graduation and college attendance rates for children and young adults in Illinois. University of Illinois Extension recently partnered with Dream Center Peoria and East Peoria Junior High to walk the school’s 200+ teachers and staff through a poverty simulation to help participants rethink poverty and become part of the solution.