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Local nonprofit helps WIC recipients with educational cooking class

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WIC FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, PEORIA GROWN PARTNERSHIP

For low income women and children access to a healthy meal can be a challenge. One local nonprofit is partnering with the Peoria Health Department to help change that.

The WIC Nutrition Program or Women, Infants, and Children assists with purchasing healthy foods.

Peoria Grown, a local nonprofit with a goal of educating families in low income areas on that same topic is combining forces with the health department to give WIC recipients the tools to eat right.

Peoria Grown, started two years ago as part of State Senator Chuck Weaver's 1000 Pounds Project. It works to combat food insecurity in Peoria by focusing on access and education.

"Last year we conducted about 30 classes around the city and had about 260 participants and after each one of the classes everyone walks away with a bag of groceries so they can go home and recreate the meals that they've learned that day." said founder of Peoria Grown Julie Eliathamby

Classes are lead by a dietitian in local schools, community centers, and low income housing. They focus on cheap and easy ways to use fresh produce to lead a healthier lifestyle.

"Our work is mainly to work with low income families because we're getting stats from the hospital that there are a lot more health issues coming from those zip codes." said Eliathamby

Many of the women and families that were attending their classes were recipients of WIC benefits. WIC is a food assistance program for women, infants, and children where they can receive special checks to buy healthy foods among other services if they fulfill education requirements.

"These ladies would have to go to educational classes and try to work their way all the way to Sheridan road at the Health Department. But if they're attending our class and we're in the community and doing these classes we were wondering if we could partner with the health department and get them to attend a class as credit towards their educational requirement." said Eliathamby

"Our whole goal mission is the education. How do we get people to learn to eat healthy, how do they make those small little changes that will start nudging them into the right direction and we're hoping the WIC partnership is a good step. " said Eliathamby

Peoria Grown hopes in the new year to also hold budgeting classes to give families tools on how to best grocery shop.

Kaitlin Pearson

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