Illinois Extension addresses local food insecurity

Lifestyle
February 15, 2021

As food insecurity has become a greater challenge during the pandemic, University of Illinois Extension continues to offer several solutions to combat it across the five-county region it serves. While some of the programs are designed to directly support those impacted by food insecurity, others can be adopted by the community as a whole to help fight it.

“We know that making healthy choices is not always easy, especially on a budget,” said Jordee Justice Koehler, Illinois Extension Director for Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties. “Our goal is to increase access to healthy foods, improve food and activity choices of Illinois families, and help them save money, making it easier to make the healthy choices.”

Extension’s Eat. Move. Save. offers ways for families to make healthier choices on a budget. As the program’s title suggests, it offers food recommendations that taste great and are easy to prepare, fun activities to get the whole family moving, and smart shopping tips to keep money in your pocket. It is funded in part by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and therefore geared toward SNAP-eligible residents.

Included among the many Extension resources on the Eat. Move. Save. site is a community map that displays where free food or meals are being offered, as well as stores and markets that accept SNAP/LINK or WIC coupons. Residents can also sign up here to receive 1-2 text messages per week with fun, healthy tips as part of the Healthy Text Program. In addition, those who are interested in learning about upcoming programs in their community can fill out the contact us form located on the Eat. Move. Save. site.

“With personal and community gardens growing in popularity during the pandemic, Extension also offers free virtual programs to assist residents in getting started,” said Justice Koehler. “Growing your own food is easier and cheaper than you may think, and not only can a garden feed your own household, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a surplus then you can help your community by donating the excess. Contact our office and we can help make that donation happen.”

The next virtual program on February 22 will educate viewers on the wide range of crops that can tolerate cool temperatures and therefore be established in February and March. Residents can register here for this free event. Past events, including last month’s “Creating Community Gardens” presentation, can be viewed on the Illinois Extension BCJMW YouTube channel.

Learn more about Illinois Extension at www.extension.illinois.edu/bcjmw or email Director Jordee Justice Koehler at jordeej@illinois.edu. You can also follow the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bcjmwu23.

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