A growing non-profit market experiences growing pains

Peoria Grown’s Market 309 struggles to keep up with the demand
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:57 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PEORIA (25News Now) - A non-profit market opened its doors three years ago to help fill Peoria’s food desert. However, it has grown in popularity and is struggling to meet the demand.

Peoria Grown offers fresh produce to residents of the 61603, 61604 and 61605 zip codes, aiming to help these areas known as food deserts, meaning they are locations that lack fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods as defined by the Illinois Food Desert Annual Report.

They also serve anyone with a link card, senior citizens, veterans, people with disabilities and those within the LGBTQ+ community.

“All of these groups are groups we have identified to be food insecure groups,” said Peoria Grown founder Julie Eliathamby.

Nearly 20,000 people in Peoria County were reported to be food insecure in 2021, according to a Feeding America report.

The market averages 50-75 people per week and often runs out of food within 45 minutes.

Eliathamby said since 2021, they have sold an equivalent of 600,000 servings, pricing their produce at one to two dollars each.

In June, Peoria Grown had to close Market 309 downtown due to the rising cost of food, which jumped by 20%, said Eliathamby, making it hard for them to keep up.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be able to continue. Part of our model is sustainability, in that we make money from the sale and put it back into buying the produce. Still, it’s not enough because the demand outweighs what we are putting out cause now there is much more of a demand of what we are doing,” said Eliathamby.

On average, Peoria Grown spends $3,000 per week on produce, but it had to cut back on its existing markets due to those rising costs.

“There is a demand for it, there is a need for it, for us to be [open] more than once a week, but it requires a big infusion of capital and cash for us to be able to do that kind of work,” said Eliathamby.

Eliathamby said the organization is applying for more grant money and preparing to host its big Thanksgiving market this Sunday, 11:30 a.m. at Trewyn Park.