Local nonprofits team up to build fruit stands for students in local schools



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PEORIA (WEEK) — Thanks to the efforts of two local nonprofits, kids in Peoria schools could have access to a variety of fresh foods, plus some local art.

“It’s such a big thing for the kids to be able to go up and get something healthier instead of going to a vending machine,” said Julie Eliathamby, founder of Peoria Grown. “They are able to go up and get fresh fruit. It’s really to encourage the kids to incorporate much healthier eating.”

About a year and a half ago, Peoria Grown teamed up with fellow nonprofit Big Picture Peoria to team up to build five of these wooden fruit stands.

Decorated by local artists, the stands were placed in schools and other nonprofits throughout the area.

It’s important to put something of value into children’s lives, and Peoria Grown is putting these into parts of the community that are known as food deserts,” said Eileen Leunig, who founded Bigger Picture Peoria with her husband, Doug. “This is a great way to show them that people care, but also bring food into their life and bring art into their lives.”

Eliathamby says the first five stands were a huge success, so five more are now in the works.

The fruit comes at a low cost from HyVee and the group is looking to add new schools in the Peoria area.

“It all depends on where the fruit stands are located. Some schools do it once a week – they call it “Fresh Fruit Fridays” – so every Friday, the kids get a chance to go up and pick a fruit,” Eliathamby said.

“Giving kids the opportunity to have fresh and new experiences is what we all need to create new thoughts and new ideas. That’s part of the thing that we are lacking when we just keep doing the same thing time after time,” Doug Leunig said.

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