Local group launches gardening initiative to combat food insecurity in 61605 area

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local group is putting the power of nutrition back into the community’s hands.

Peoria’s South Side is a food desert, with zero grocery stores and hardly any fresh produce readily available.

On Earth Day, volunteers from Budded Mattah Urban Agriculture, a grassroots initiative of local non-profits and churches, planted seeds and spread mulch for a new community garden at the South Side Mission Benevolence Center on Garden Street.

The group’s leaders said they want to empower community members to end food insecurity through urban agriculture. They are selling small garden plots for people to plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables.

“We want to build the community up and to educate them, and to end the food drought. We’re supplying everything you need – the hoses, the shovels, seeds. They’re small manageable plots to start and it’s a good place to start if you don’t have the knowledge,” said organizer Amy Figueroa.

“The plots we have are going for $12 a plot. If people can’t afford that we waive the $12 also. It’s more about the interest in gardening than the funds that come from it,” said organizer Ryan Foster.

Eventually, they hope community members can turn their gardens into sustainable income.

“We want people to have a growing interest in nutritional food sources, and even get them to go market and get income streams from the food… We want to get the whole entire urban agriculture culture started here in 61605,” said Foster.

The vision doesn’t stop at the community garden.

“This is just a gateway, see if they get interest, they can do this forever… We want to have a year-round co-op grocery store and farmers market going year round, which would eliminate the food desert,” he said.

To learn more about the project and to donate, visit the group’s GoFundMe.

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