SNAP-Ed partnership in Rushville helps French-speaking community members access food

Man sitting in car while wearing a face mask being handed a box of food from a volunteer at a car window

August 10, 2021

RUSHVILLE, Ill. - Food pantries and banks in Illinois communities have seen increased need over the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education began work with Central Illinois Foodbank for their monthly food giveaway in Schuyler County. The program currently serves 150-200 households each month, many of whom are French-speaking African immigrants.

According to the 2019 census data, the city of Rushville in Schuyler County has a total population of 2,746. Ten percent of the population is Black, and of that percentage, 69.8% are African immigrants.

The partnership began when Central Illinois Foodbank reached out to Akinwale Akingbule, Extension educator with SNAP-Ed, to ask for assistance in promoting their food giveaways in the Rushville Library parking lot. Akingbule noted that the event flyer was only advertised in English and offered to translate it into French. The foodbank was happy to have a second version of the flyer available and mentioned they had not previously seen the French-speaking population at the food pantries or giveaways.

Akingbule visited a grocery store, Passi Store, where many French speakers in the area shop for food. He has an established relationship with the store manager due to other initatives, such as promoting healthy food options and sharing nutrition information to be posted in French which encourages healthy choices. After speaking with the manager, he learned that many people in the community would be unlikely to visit the food giveaways due to the perceived language barrier. Akingbule asked the store manager to share that the monthly food giveaway was a drive-up event to alleviate this fear. Pantry volunteers would load food boxes directly into the cars and they would not need to speak to anyone to receive the food items.  

Following these promotion efforts, the foodbank was happy to report that they started to see the French-speaking community members at the giveaway events. To bolster these efforts, Akingbule hopes to recruit a fluent French speaker from the area to help make these resources more accessible at the food pantry.

New funding allocation to further promote healthy food access

Schuyler County SNAP-Ed recently received funding through the new Health Equity Achieved Together Project to further their work with the French speakers in Rushville. Their project seeks to increase racial and health equity in Rushville by connecting the French-speaking community with available resources. It will develop tailored interventions to promote access to healthy foods and improved physical activity by conducting a needs assessment. Key stakeholders include the Schuyler County Food Basket food pantry, area farmers, a fitness center, and the Grow Rushville Schuyler County Coalition.

Possible interventions include growing value crops that the community will readily consume and providing resources to food pantries and fitness centers to help the French-speaking population use their services. Other strategies may also occur depending on needs assessment results.  

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.

Story Source
Akinwale Akingbule