Having fresh fruits and vegetables available for every meal might be a far-fetched idea for some Peorians. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t local organizations combating food scarcity.
Peoria Grown was founded three years ago to address food insecurity in the community. Their mission stemmed from knowing not only that areas in the community lacked access to food, but also access to the right kinds of food.
Starting with nutrition education, the organization has evolved to run the market, as well as provide handcrafted fruit stands to nonprofits and local community centers throughout Peoria.
Julie Eliathamby, founder and executive director of Peoria Grown, decided to bring the market to Bradley’s campus. The process of bringing the market involved writing for a Parent’s Association grant earlier this year with two Bradley dietetic professors. The organization is completely run by volunteers, with many Bradley students among the group.
“This whole thing came out because for the last two years, we have worked very closely with the Bradley dietetic program,” Eliathamby said. “The dietetic students have been very involved with Peoria Grown and our educational piece. They go out and conduct nutrition and cooking classes around the community.”
To address the transportation barrier among not only students on campus but families within the community, a lot of Peoria Grown’s services are brought to neighborhoods that could benefit from them. They aim to partner with associations, community centers, schools and more within the neighborhood to offer their nutrition classes.
Drawing the attention of several students were punch cards offered at checkout that would get shoppers $5 off after six purchases. They were quick to express gratitude for the affordability of the items offered.
“I got a whole bag of fruit last week and I only spent six dollars, which is way less than I’d ever spent at the store,” Leah LoVerde, senior kinesiology and health science major, said. “It’s awesome because I feel like a lot of people weren’t getting fresh produce, so I think it’s a good opportunity right on campus.”
According to Eliathamby, this is just the beginning for the organization. At their market in the South end, conducted at the Logan Center, they offer over 60 types of produce, with hopes to expand their offerings.
Eliathamby hopes to continue bringing Market 309 to Bradley once a week, even possibly as a permanent part of campus in the future.
“Our goal is to be here as long as the students want us,” Eliathamby said. “Our goal is to be able to eventually have a fresh food market on campus to meet these needs.”