Six Critical Solutions to Fix Peoria’s Community Emergency Food Assistance System
Keywords:Emergecy Food Assistance, Collaboration, Information Technology, Community-based Organizations, Coordination of Services
No food system can be considered successful unless all people are well fed with the best food available.
—Ken Meter (2013, p. 11)
For me, Ken Meter’s simple statement hits the nail on the proverbial head. In Peoria, Illinois, we see fundamental issues facing many of our community food programs as they attempt to overcome the challenge of providing people in need with good food—food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable. Not only are we challenged in feeding all of our food-insecure families adequately; we really struggle in offering, on a consistent basis, healthier food options.
In the city of Peoria (population just over 114,000), where I co-founded the Gifts in the Moment Foundation (the gitm Foundation), there are over 40 soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve families as part of the emergency food assistance system. Collectively called community food programs (CFPs), most are part of faith-based organizations, and many exist within mere blocks of one another. Yet in Peoria there exists no mutually shared system for clients to know whether they qualify for participation, where all of these CFPs are located, or even their hours of operation. Most of these well-intentioned emergency food programs admit to poor communication, but are burdened by having volunteer staff and few resources to try to fix our dysfunctional system. In this Voices from the Grassroots brief, I elaborate on these challenges and offer six solutions critical to fixing Peoria’s emergency food assistance system. My hope is that this brief will inspire action within our Regional Fresh Food Council (https://www.regionalfreshfoodcouncil.org), and may possibly inform the work of other food policy councils dealing with similar challenges. We welcome input from other organizations and agencies.
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