SNAP-Ed helps obtain culturally appropriate foods for mobile food pantries in Peoria

white background with five red chiles

June 3, 2022

PEORIA, Ill. – Familiar foods can make foods more accessible to families in need. Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education considers culture when working with food pantries across the state.

In 2021, Peoria Area Food Bank received a grant to supply healthy and culturally relevant foods to Hispanic families. Peoria Area Food Bank reached out to SNAP-Ed at University of Illinois Extension for assistance in identifying which foods to provide. SNAP-Ed collaborated with University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP), Federally Qualified Health Centers, and Heartland Health Services to host focus groups for local Hispanic families and community leaders. UICOMP bi-lingual medical students led the focus groups.

According to a community map of the city of Peoria, there are 54,225 individuals earning below the poverty level and 4.8% of Peoria’s total population identify as Hispanic or Latino.

After analyzing the focus group results and meeting with community leaders, six mobile food distributions were held in spring and summer 2021 at churches and healthcare centers with a larger population of Hispanic families. Peoria Area Food Bank ordered culturally relevant foods from a local Hispanic grocery store, El Paso, following SNAP-Ed recommendations. Foods included mesa, hominy, and a variety of peppers and spices. Additionally, SNAP-Ed collaborated with Bradley University dietetic students to create a healthy spin on traditional Hispanic dishes, such as using herbs to lower sodium content. Staff bundled ingredients for the recipes into clear bags for distribution at the mobile distributions. Bi-lingual staff provided Eat. Move. Save. recipes, taste tests of the recipes, and Find Food IL flyers. These events reached over six hundred families. Due to the success of these mobile food pantries, six more are scheduled in the spring and summer of 2022.

Focus groups shared food pantries were having trouble finding guajillo chiles locally. Guajillo chiles are a dried version of mild to moderate peppers that are extremely popular in Mexico. SNAP-Ed staff have coordinated with local community gardens that are currently growing these peppers. The gardens will harvest the peppers to be distributed at the mobile food pantries this summer.

SOURCE: Kaitlyn Streitmatter, Senior Manager, Policy, Systems and Environment, Illinois SNAP-Ed, University of Illinois Extension

WRITER: Rebecca Nicol, Publicity-Promotion Associate, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT SNAP-ED: Making healthy choices is not always easy, especially when families are struggling financially. University of Illinois SNAP-Ed provides practical healthy eating and physical activity solutions for Illinois families and participates in strategic local, regional, and statewide partnerships to transform the health of Illinois communities. SNAP-Ed is provided by University of Illinois Extension. In the city of Chicago, SNAP-Ed is led by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.