Area leaders plan to bring healthy, local, sustainable food to greater Peoria

By WEEK Reporter

March 29, 2014 Updated Mar 29, 2014 at 10:31 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Community leaders came to the first-ever Greater Peoria Food Summit at Peoria's Riverplex, ready to bring more local and sustainable food practices to the area.

"Today's a very exciting day. Peoria county leadership has been discussing developing a local food economy for the last two years working hand-in-glove with the University of Illinois Extension," said Summit coordinator and Peoria County Board member Mary Ardapple. "We now have culminated to a community dialogue."

Area leaders--all taking a seat at the table--ready to bring more local, healthy and sustainable food to the area.

"Come together to develop an action plan furthering community gardens, food co-op possibilities, small business growth and more," said Ardapple.

Minneapolis leaders have already done it. In 2008, Julie Ristau among others co-founded Homegrown Minneapolis--a city-wide initiative started by the City of Minneapolis to expand the community's ability to grow, process, distribute, eat and compost more healthy, sustainable and locally grown food.

"We have more farmer's markets. We have more corner stores. We've seen a more robust local food economy. We see more people who understand the importance of local food and more local food is being produced," said Ristau.

Ristau says it is a full picture of the food system at work. Peoria Councilwoman Denise Moore says it is a possible solution to Peoria's food desert.

"When ALDI first closed and this became an issue for our area, I was really worried that it would take a much longer time than what this conference indicates that we could do much sooner," said Councilwoman Moore.

She's now working with other community leaders to organize a trip to Minneapolis to see Homegrown Minneapolis first hand.

"We don't have to recreate the wheel when it comes to these issues--someone's already doing it," said Councilwoman Moore. "We just have to take the best practices and implement them here in Peoria."

"Peoria's already underway," said Ristau. "Peoria already has the vision, the resources, the assets and the people at the table that are willing to come together and create this vision."