Better food at better prices? You betcha!
Ahead of Market 309 days on campus, junior Megan De Valois can be found sharing flyers online, securing and training volunteers, reserving spaces and all the other little things that come with getting affordable produce into the hands of students. When the day comes and the market opens, it’s her job as market manager to ensure everything goes smoothly.
The mission statement behind Market 309 is to bring affordable, healthy food into places that are food insecure. By providing produce at a lower cost than grocery stores that are usually further away, they hope to combat a lack of access to healthy foods and the resulting nutritional detriments.
“For me, specifically as a college student, I understand it's very hard to get affordable food,” De Valois said, noting that her busy school and work schedule make it difficult to get to a grocery store. She also pointed out that many students don’t have transportation, so their choices are limited to on-campus dining services or CVS at Campustown, which doesn’t leave a lot of options.
Meanwhile, Market 309 offers fruits, vegetables and dairy, and is open to both students and community members, regardless of income. The group wants to be a resource for all kinds of people, De Valois says, reiterating the accessibility of the market.
Unfortunately, nationwide trends have managed to reach Market 309 as well, with some items going up in price slightly to account for inflation. However, with the help of government grants and a lot of volunteer hours, prices are still lower than at the grocery store.
“We rely heavily on volunteers and I love all the passion they bring. All of them have made such a difference,” she noted.
De Valois discovered Market 309 by volunteering through the Epsilon Sigma Alpha service organization. She also participates in intramural sports, works as a phlebotomist, and is an intern for Central Illinois FRIENDS, a Peoria-based public health clinic.
“The main reason I love this campus is the passion behind the people,” De Valois said.
That passion exudes from De Valois’ plan to graduate a semester early so she can work full-time at the hospital and continue her volunteering.
The future is also bright for Market 309 with the continued availability of SNAP benefits and the potential for prepackaged foods and online orders on the horizon.
For more information on Market 309 and its hours, check out Peoria Grown, their parent organization, at their website.
You can also support this campus resource by making a gift to Bradley's Family Fund online today!
– Jenevieve Rowley-Davis