A local “Food for Health” project funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois hopes to encourage food pantry guests to choose healthier food options and boost availability of healthy food choices at Peoria food pantries.


Dr. Amy Christison

“We know that food insecurity and poverty are linked to childhood and adult obesity and subsequently diabetics and high blood pressure,” says Amy Christison, MD, medical director of Healthy Kids U Clinic at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois and assistant professor of pediatrics with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria.

While non-perishable offerings and staples common in food pantries go a long way in providing food to those in need, those items may not be the best choices for someone with diabetes or high blood pressure. This grant project is working with Loaves and Fish and New Beginnings food pantries to help provide a labeling system to easily identify foods that may be good choices for someone with diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. Providing education to pantry workers and guests is another component of the project that offers tastings and recipes for foods that may be new or unfamiliar to pantry guests.

The project also hopes to increase the inventory of healthy options in pantries by promoting “preferred” canned food drives and fresh (produce) food drives. “Preferred” canned food drives encourage donations of lower salt, lower fat, lower sugar and higher fiber canned food donations. Donations of “preferred” canned items and non-processed foods and fresh produce help provide healthier choices for pantry guests.

Led by Christison, the Food for Health collaboration also includes University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria medical students; Bradley University dietetic interns; University of Illinois Extension; and Loaves and Fish and New Beginnings food pantries.

Community groups and organizations interested in learning more about organizing a “preferred” or fresh food drive, can contact Kaitlyn Streitmatter at [email protected] or phone (309) 685-3140 for more information.

This project has been made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois.