More than 65 people turned out today at Peoria’s South Side Mission for a roundtable on what happens when two neighborhood Kroger stores close.
The discussion event planned by Democratic State Senator Dave Koehler was initially expected to have about 16 people participate.
Specifically, the idea of food co-ops was the topic for consideration as well as other potentially sustainable solutions to the community's growing food deserts.
The Kroger stores on Harmon Highway and Wisconsin Avenue are closing at the end of the month. That leaves both areas with no real immediate options for fresh food. Both are also areas some grocery stores and restaurants won’t make deliveries.
68-year-old Mary Hayes says she lives within walking distance of the Madison Park store on Harmon Highway and doesn’t have a car. Hayes says she will have to make a bus transfer to get to the next nearby grocery. She says besides that, they have only little carts that they are allowed to carry on the bus. "We can’t carry like a gallon of milk, and laundry detergent and some Downy Fabric Softener. Those are big things. We just can’t carry them from Sheridan Village back to my house on the bus. It’s just impossible.”
Hayes says the store closures are devastating for those who live in South Town and in the East Bluff. She says for her and many like her, this is creating a food crisis.
The South Side Mission is also concerned about the Madison Park store closing. Craig Williams is the executive director of the mission. He says the Kroger story donated a substantial amount of perishable food to the mission's pantry weekly. He says any efforts to get a sustainable food supply into the 61605 area code and the East Bluff has to be strategic and assertive.
First District Peoria City Councilwoman Denise Moore says the store closings are also a problem for the so call unbanked. Moore says for people who don't have a bank account, the Western Union inside the Kroger is a way for them to be able to pay their bills.
The Wisconsin Avenue Kroger pharmacy will also be a compounded loss for that area. The Heartland Clinic is next door, in the same shopping center giving people the opportunity to get prescriptions filled before they leave. The pharmacies, gas center and the Western Union at the stores are also closing.
The City of Peoria has three food strategy discussions Saturday, January 13th. They are:
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Manual High School
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., East Bluff Community Center
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Peoria Public Library main branch on NE Monroe in the lower level auditorium.