One in 10 people in Illinois struggles with hunger every day, including one in eight children, according to Feeding America. When families are hungry, making healthier choices can be even more difficult. A new project focuses on expanding food access with recently allocated funds through University of Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.

The Health Equity Achieved Together Project is a multi-disciplinary project with Illinois SNAP-Ed and other programs within University of Illinois Extension. Programs will develop and implement innovative strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce community barriers to healthier lifestyles. Working with others across Extension enables the HEAT Project to leverage their expertise and networks across Illinois, thereby maximizing the positive impact on the health of Illinois families.

The Illinois Deer Donation Program Pilot will connect meat processors, hunters and food pantries in 12 central Illinois counties: Clay, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt and Shelby. By engaging hunters to donate their deer and meat processors to produce ground venison, a local source of lean protein will be available to food pantry clients. Clients will also receive recipes and resources from Illinois Extension to help them prepare venison at home, which might be unfamiliar to some individuals and families.

“This will be an opportunity for hunters to help tackle food insecurity in their communities while doing something they enjoy,” said Michelle Fombelle, Extension SNAP-Ed educator.

In addition, HEAT Project awardees will engage with local stakeholders and community members as they design and implement their initiatives. Projects will also plan sustainability and inclusion strategies to ensure that the projects have long-lasting community impact.

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