PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — One organization and one not-for-profit have partnered to lower food insecurity in the south end of Peoria.

Residents in the community vote through Build Peoria on which organization they should partner with each year, and this year, residents voted that Build Peoria partner with Peoria Grown.

Specifically, they’re helping Peoria Grown find a permanent location for its Market 309 initiative to give them more storage to supply fresh produce for residents of the south end.

According to the President of Build Peoria, one in six people struggle with food insecurity in the south end of Peoria, however, the two organizations are working together to change that statistic.

“We partner with Peoria Grown and we say, ‘Hey guys, for the next year we’re going to raise money for you,’ and then after that, we’re going to build for them for the year. So, whatever we do at Build Peoria, it’s really about that project at that moment,” said Nick Yates, President of Build Peoria.

Leaders at Peoria Grown jumped for joy when they found out they were chosen, and now, they’re excited to get their feet on the ground running.

“Our focus the last couple of years has been raising funds to buy the produce, but as we grow and scale, it’s becoming a bigger need for us to get some of these items, especially a storage unit where we need places to store our produce,” said Founder of Peoria Grown Julie Eliathamby.

There has been one setback, however. Build Peoria hosts a chili cook-off with a large number of restaurants annually to help raise money for their project/partnership. This year, it was canceled due to labor and supply issues, which means fewer donations for Peoria Grown.

“We looked at it as, on one hand, it’s really tough that we were canceling the chili cook-off,” said Yates. “But on the other, we realized this opened our eyes to the food insecurity in Peoria.”

Now, both organizations are trying to find other ways to fundraise for a permanent building for Peoria Grown’s Market 309.

Market 309 currently has two locations. One is at Logan Recreation Center, open every Sunday from 11-2 p.m., and the other is on North Valley Road, open on Tuesdays, from 4-6 p.m. But Market 309’s struggle is storage for the produce.

“What we want to be is a little corner store and still continue the same vibe of Market 309, only fresh produce and fresh food, only healthy items,” said Eliathamby.

It might take some time, but Peoria Grown is hoping Build Peoria can fundraise $50,000 for the permanent location.

“We’re addressing one of the biggest core issues when we’re talking about food deserts and food nutrition security,” said Eliathamby. “It’s getting families easy, accessible access to these types of foods.”

Peoria Grown’s goal is to start getting the south end permanent location ready by the first quarter of 2023.

For those who would like to donate or volunteer for Peoria Grown, click here.

For those who would like to donate or volunteer for Build Peoria, click here.