Innovators Gather For Some Serious Food Talk

Aug 1, 2019

Entrepreneurs met Wednesday in Peoria's Warehouse District for some serious food talk. 

The inaugural Greater Peoria Food Innovation Meetup at Sous Chef attracted a large crowd of people who make food their business across Central Illinois. 

"There's a whole different slew of products in the food arena that really qualify as innovation, but maybe not innovation as we would usually define it," said Tory Dahlhoff, the rural development coordinator for the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. 

He said he wanted to get together a diverse group of people running the gamut from local food entrepreneurs looking to get their product on more shelves, farmers trying out new methods, and even software developers looking to help increase food access through data. 

Urban farmers, small grocers, and green business owners were just a few of the types of people in attendance. 

One of those people is Andy Diaz. He runs the Urban Acres farm in Peoria's North Valley neighborhood and the Springboard Market at the corner of Spring and Monroe.

Diaz said he started gardening, but eventually got to the point where he had more than he needed. In addition to donating much of his crop to food pantries, Diaz also started up a weekly farmer's market as a way to keep his product local and bring the neighborhood together.

Much of the North Valley neighborhood is considered a food desert. He said he wants to help others do what he's doing elsewhere. 

"I hope what I learn along the way, I can empower someone else who's trying to do something in their part of town and give them some of my tips or the stumbling blocks that I found, because no one should have to reinvent the wheel," Diaz said. 

The Springboard Market hosts the North End Mercado every Saturday. It features not only locally-grown food, but also arts, crafts, plants and clothes. 

Jake Hamann of the Peoria Innovation Alliance said he hopes people come away from the meetups knowing more about what others locally are doing in the field.