The Regional Fresh Food Council is trying to bring more than awareness to a food desert issue in South side Peoria and the East Bluff. Tory Dahlhoff with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council helped spearhead a survey and report with Kathie Brown from University of Illinois Extension. They wanted to find out why two Kroger stores closed, and how the community was coping.
The Kroger on Wisconsin Avenue and Harmon Highway both closed last year, leading to the current situation. No access to fresh, healthy foods in those communities. Wednesday they held an open discussion at the Minority Business Association on S Adams in Peoria. Over thirty people came out to listen to the results of the report and ask questions.
The Fresh Food Council wants to do more than spark discussion. They want to inspire action. Dahlhoff says they need to think outside the big box stores. “What are some innovative models that will really work and be sustainable in Peoria’s South side?” he asked. He suggests a Co-op model where community members who live there own and run the store. “This community owned model has been working in some small towns and maybe there’s some version of that to translate to Peoria’s south side,” he suggested.
The discussion was lively and several residents offered criticisms of the survey as well as praise for the attempt to spark action. “People deserve a decent meal. I think they deserve more than fast foods,” said Helen King, a concerned Peoria resident.
The group says they aren’t bringing a grocery store to the south side, they can only provide resources for entrepreneurs who want to make a difference. The next step is finding people in the community who want to take that leap.
Another meeting will be scheduled for a future date and held in the East Bluff. For a look at the full report you can click here.