Junior League of Peoria tackles food insecurity in Peoria

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Community members are encouraged to wear the same black outfit for five consecutive days to show solidarity with impoverished families.

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Advocates against poverty coming together to bridge the hunger gap in Peoria.

“If you live in a Peoria food dessert, you have a couple of options to get food, one is to take the bus or multiple buses to actually get to a grocery store, or you can go to a convenient store,” Junior League of Peoria Advocate Melissa Kelch said.

This week the Junior League of Peoria is participating in the Little Black Dress Initiative. Kelch said it’s to increase food insecurity awareness in Peoria. Supporters are wearing the same black outfit for five days.

“So you have to prioritize what’s important to you, and sometimes clothes maybe aren’t on the top of the list, it’s instead, feeding your family. So wearing that same thing just strike that feeling on a personal level of having to wear the same exact thing day after day because that is the amount of resource you have to spend on that tangible item within your life,”she said

Kelch said this is the case for many families in Peoria and that 16 percent of Peorians do not have access to nutritional and affordable meals. That is four percent higher than the state’s average.

The Junior League partnered with Peoria Public School Foundation to host a food drive Tuesday. They are accepting donations throughout the week to fill the little free pantry. There are 19 of them placed across town in two of Peoria’s food deserts–the Southside and East Bluff.

“Some of our schools do not have grocery store’s around them so if you go into some parts of our town’s, the grocery stores just left.”

Families are encouraged to take what they need and give what they can. Trish O’Shaughnessy with the Peoria Public School Foundation is wearing the same black dress all week. She said stands in solidarity with the 18,000 children in Peoria who do not know when their next meal will be.

“It makes you appreciate what you have, I realize a lot of what I have is a luxury, a lot of people do not have that luxury.”

The Little Black Dress Challenge goes beyond wearing the same outfit for five days. Kelch said participants are also asked to buy meals for their families, but only shopping at a convenience store with a tight budget.

“The common goal is to bring awareness to food insecurity in Peoria, and this will kind of strike that conversation in others that maybe haven’t thought about that yet,” O’Shaughnessy said.

Kelch said it’s not too late to join the Little Black Dress challenge. Kelch said you can participate to help raise food insecurity awareness by sparking the conversation. Use the hashtag #JLP when posting food desert statistics or while participating in the challenge.

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