SNAP-Ed partnerships lead to mobile markets, grant funding to provide more food to families in need

stacks of boxes on a truckbed and ramp with produce and nutrition education handouts

April 8, 2021

URBANA, Ill. - Illinois SNAP-Ed takes pride in supporting families across the state through our nutrition education programming and community collaboration efforts that focus on obesity prevention and reducing food insecurity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SNAP-Ed has built upon this work by playing a significant role in increasing food access opportunities for families struggling. Strong existing partnerships allow SNAP-Ed to help local hunger relief organizations in a variety of ways:

  • Access healthy food to serve an increasing number of pantry clients,
  • Maintain and update food pantry and mobile market location lists to share with families,
  • Assist with grant applications and supporting infrastructure needs,
  • Connect pantries with produce distributors, and
  • Support the transition of food distribution models to include COVID-19 safe practices.


Mobile markets

metal barricade in front of lines of cars with sign that states "We're in this together" above United Way and Illinois Extension logosIn 2020, SNAP-Ed worked with 200 food pantries in three Illinois regions, including 37 mobile markets, which brought food to the homes of over 8,400 families. Mobile markets took place in low-income, high-need communities and provided 9,700 food boxes.

Mobile markets in Jefferson County scheduled before COVID-19 had to be canceled, but Illinois SNAP-Ed educator, Ashley Hoffman, worked with the United Way of South-Central Illinois to redirect the funds to purchase produce for the Park Avenue Food Pantry in March 2020. Pantry patrons could bring home potatoes, apples, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, oranges, and onions.

Hoffman next coordinated with UWSCI to provide labor and $4,500 to ensure the April market would still occur. She worked with local produce distributor, Cusumano & Sons, to put together 300 boxes of produce, including apples, potatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, and grapes. Also, 300 gallons of milk were purchased through local dairy supplier, Prairie Farms, and their staff assisted on the day of the market. On April 25, the new mobile market passed out 7,200 pounds of food to families in need. To help families prepare the produce at home, SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital printed recipes chosen by Illinois SNAP-Ed from our Eat. Move. Save. website.

Additional mobile market funds during 2020 included:

  • $6,000 towards the May mobile market from Mt. Vernon Rotary Club,
  • $6,000 towards a mobile market from SSM Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital, and
  • Funding towards holiday-themed items such as ham, turkey, and ingredients for popular side dishes from both UWSCI and SSM towards the end of the year.


Grant application assistance

inside of truck with boxes of food with nutrition education materials on topOne fundamental way SNAP-Ed assisted food pantries and community agencies during COVID-19 was by assisting with grant applications. With more and more families in need of food, food pantries and other agencies needed additional funding to support them. This help resulted in over $2.7 million of funding secured for southern Illinois areas through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box. This funding provided 1.3 million pounds of food between April and December to families in need. SNAP-Ed assisted with food box coordination to food pantries and organizations and designed new distribution methods for the boxes, such as direct delivery and mobile pantries. Using these funds towards food purchases allowed other funds to be reallocated by SSM Health to purchase a large box truck and a refrigerator for two food pantries.

Illinois COVID-19 Relief Funds provided another successful source of funding for food pantries and area hospitals in southern Illinois, for a total of $150,000 to go towards healthy foods and PPE. Hoffman assisted UWSCI in completing grant applications for the COVID-19 Response Fund. As a result, they successfully received $50,000 from the COVID-19 Response Fund. Hoffman then connected local food suppliers to pantries for weekly distribution in April.

Additional successful grant assistance occurred in southern and central Illinois. BlueCross Blue Shield of Illinois funded $60,000 towards three food pantries in southern Illinois. In the Peoria area, 17 mini-grants supporting improvements in food pantry infrastructure were awarded by the local food bank.

To learn more about how Illinois SNAP-Ed can help your organization or community, visit our Work With Us section or Contact Us today.

Story Source
Ashley Hoffman
ahoff10@illinois.edu