Minonk is a small city of about 2000 people. The only grocery store in the city was IGA which closed in 2015. After eight months without a grocery, Grosenbach’s opened in 2016. Three years later, and they are once again without a grocery store.
The USDA describes a food desert as an area without access to healthy food options like fresh produce and whole foods. A food desert can be found anywhere, inner cities, and country towns like Minonk where you can buy bread and milk at the Dollar General, but produce is a pipe dream. The closest grocery stores to Minonk are small IGA’s in Roanoke and El Paso. Most of the residents I spoke with said they go to El Paso, Bloomington, or Pontiac. Several residents said they don’t expect the empty businesses in town to be filled soon. They blame it on big box stores like Wal Mart driving out the mom and pop shops who can’t compete with their prices.
Owner of ‘The Sweet Shop’ Frances Allen says it has definitely made it more difficult without a grocery store down the street. She does the bulk of the shopping for her business in Bloomington and Peoria. “I usually make 1 trip a week, and 2 during the spring and summer when we’re more busy,” said Allen. She sells fresh made baked goods, candy, sandwiches, coffee, and other items. She said she packs her car completely full, all by herself.
In a city council meeting on Monday the local food pantry asked leaders for more space. The pantry is housed in the city building and said they need twice the room to keep up with demand. They’ve gone from servicing 23 families to over 50. Local resident Dennis Johnson works with St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Minonk to help pack and deliver food for students in the area. He said they send home food with over 200 students every Friday during the school year. “I just can’t believe it. I’ve been around the world almost in my Navy days. I never thought I’d see starvation here, basically how it was over there. It’s not quite as bad but it’s getting there,” explained Johnson.
The council said they need more information before deciding whether or not to expand the food pantry. We reached out to Bill Koos, the Mayor of Minonk but haven’t heard a response. City Manager did speak with us off camera and said he doesn’t believe the increase in food pantry service is related to the city not having a grocery store.