PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Fighting Peoria’s food insecurity with access and education.

Founded in 2018, Peoria Grown provides necessary fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy lifestyle.

“We heard from our families saying that, ‘we want to eat healthily, but we just cannot afford to buy some of this product on a consistent basis,’” said Julie Eliathamby, Founder & Executive Director of Peoria Grown.

Eliathamby said their goal is to help provide solutions to existing challenges. One way is through a cooking class.

“We decided one of the things, a component in our cooking class, was that our families will leave with ingredients,” said Eliathamby. “So another removing of a barrier that we knew [local families] were facing.”

Cooking classes are now paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the nonprofit still works to bring nourishment and fresh foods to the surrounding area in other ways. The 501c3 focuses on youth education, which translates to healthy lifestyle choices as adults.

“Juvenile diabetes is on the rise right now in Peoria, and a lot of it stems from education,” said Eliathamby. “Getting in front of the kids. So, if we can do that early if we can partner with the schools, and put the right subject-matter experts in front of them…we feel that we can start making some changes.”

Peoria Grown launched Market 309 to bring convenient locations and cheaper costs.

Market 309 exists at Peoria Park District’s Logan Recreation Center on Sundays, North Valley Commons on Tuesdays, and at Bradley University.

Peoria Grown also hosts a pop-up produce pantry. There is a mobile pantry that travels to various neighborhoods throughout Peoria. The pantry’s mission is to provide healthy foods to those in our community who need them most and can’t access fresh, whole foods easily. It is offered once a week on Thursday evenings from 6-7 pm throughout the summer months.

Locations for each week can be found on the nonprofit’s calendar

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