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  • Writer's picturePeoria Grown

Transforming Peoria's Approach: From Hunger Relief to Nutritional Empowerment

By: Julie Eliathamby, Peoria Grown Founder

In Peoria, the specter of hunger has transformed into a complex web of issues, notably nutrition insecurity. The traditional approach of providing charity-driven sustenance is insufficient to tackle the evolving health concerns stemming from inadequate nutrition.

Peoria Grown's efforts over the past five years have been dedicated to tackling the root causes of food insecurity and pioneering a transformative model. Our mission revolves around creating a framework that addresses immediate needs and dignifies families by providing them with opportunities for empowerment. This approach is a testament to our commitment to nurturing a sustainable and dignified solution to Peoria's nutrition insecurity challenges.

The narrative of hunger in Peoria has taken a significant turn, intertwining with the broader issue of nutrition insecurity. While ensuring access to food remains critical, the quality and nutritional value of the food accessible to families are increasingly becoming focal points. The traditional model of providing charitable aid while serving immediate needs fails to address the root cause of the problem. It's akin to offering a temporary fix to a chronic issue, which perpetuates dependency rather than fostering self-reliance.

Peoria Grown recognizes that food insecurity is not merely a matter of having enough to eat; it's about having access to nutritious, wholesome foods that promote health and well-being. This paradigm shift is crucial, pivoting from a reactionary response to hunger to a proactive approach emphasizing empowering families with the resources and knowledge to access, afford, and prepare nourishing meals.

Addressing nutrition insecurity involves multifaceted solutions beyond the conventional scope of charitable food distribution. It demands initiatives that bolster local food systems, promote education on healthy eating habits, and create avenues for sustainable access to fresh, locally-grown produce. Peoria Grown's initiatives aim to provide immediate relief and focus on building a resilient community capable of sustaining its nutritional needs.

The stark reality is that the rise in nutrition insecurity persists despite efforts to alleviate hunger through charitable means. The shift toward addressing the root causes of this issue requires innovative thinking and a holistic approach. Peoria Grown champions initiatives that engage the community support local farmers, and prioritize nutrition education, laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable solutions.

While Map the Meal Gap is widely considered the best starting point for understanding the need for charitable food, it still could benefit from layering in additional perspectives, some say. One observation is that Map the Meal Gap does not reflect efforts to fill the gap. 'If you flood a neighborhood with charitable food, it doesn't move the needle on the Meal Gap,' noted Bob Shaver, Principal at Redstone Strategy Group, based in Boulder, Colo. This insight underscores the necessity of reevaluating our approaches to food insecurity. Simply providing aid without addressing the underlying issues perpetuates a cycle of dependency, failing to create sustainable solutions for our families and communities."

For more on this perspective, check out Bob Shaver's insights here:



Peoria Grown's advocacy for policies supporting access to nutritious foods paves the way for a transformative and holistic approach. This strategy lays the foundation for a future where families can achieve self-reliance and improved health outcomes. Challenging the age-old adage of 'this is how we have always done it' becomes imperative. Clinging to outdated methods is a disservice to our families and the community. To truly progress, we must embrace innovative strategies that empower and uplift our communities.

The evolution of hunger into nutrition insecurity demands a recalibration of approaches. Peoria Grown's work departs from the conventional charity-centric model towards a more holistic, sustainable, and empowering strategy. To combat nutrition insecurity, shifting focus from temporary aid to initiatives that cultivate self-reliance and foster a community empowered to make healthier choices is imperative.


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