Network Coordinator: Jasmine Thompson Blum (217) 222-8440 ext.1107 firstname.lastname@example.org
Family Engagement Specialist: Mya Hellenthal (217) 222-8440 ext.1128 email@example.com
Address: Adams County Health Department
330 Vermont Street
Quincy, IL 62301
Changing Food Systems to Improve Nutrition and Health Outcomes for Children and Families
The Adams County All Our Kids Early Childhood Network is a community collaboration dedicated to promoting and strengthening the health and well-being of families and caregivers with children from prenatal to age five. The Adams County AOK Network consists of 40 diverse partner agencies that work together to ensure children from birth to age five and pregnant moms receive the best supports early in life.
Adams County is in the westernmost part of Illinois and home to 21 towns, including Quincy as the county seat. As of the 2020 census, the population was 65,737.
The Adams County AOK Network addresses access and coordination of food systems. Proper nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, has implications for a child’s future physical health and cognition. Children living in homes that are food-insecure are sick more often, recover more slowly, and are more likely to be hospitalized.
In 2017, the AOK Network completed an early childhood community assessment and learned that not all children are at a healthy weight, not all families engage in health-promoting behaviors, and some families report experiencing food insecurity. For example, more families in Adams County reported needing emergency food over the past 12 months compared to the state average, particularly for pregnant moms and children ages three to five. In addition, the number of families who reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times per day was 4% lower than the state average for ages up to three and 4% lower for ages three to five.
The AOK Network worked with the community to understand how local systems impede families’ ability to access fresh food. Many service providers and families with youngchildren are not aware that WIC coupons can be used at summer farmers’ markets and are unsure how to access the region’s food pantries and mini-pantries.Transportation also makes it difficult for families to navigate and access food outlets easily.
The AOK Coordinator, WIC, the District, and Quincy Medical Group are collaborating to increase participation in the farmers’ market. The Quincy Medical Group granted $2,500 to double the value of the farmers’ market coupons, allowing their clients to purchase healthier food choices. Together, the partners promote the farmers’ market to their own partners, increasing participation overall.
Participants shared the following comments (edited for space):
In the summer of 2019, the AOK Network arranged for agencies to experience riding the public bus transportation to give them a better understanding of what their clients experience as they try to access grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, WIC, or other service appointments.
- “I honestly can’t imagine trying to bring a child/children with me along with items from a store. It was challenging enough in my opinion.”
- “I can see it be[ing] overwhelming if you have a couple kids and groceries. The maps are confusing. [The agency] had great luck with Google maps.”
- “For me personally it was an eye opener… I keep picturing the single mom who has an infant [and] a two-year-old and must walk the two blocks to the health department for her WIC appointment or possibly a well-baby checkup.”
An online referral system, known as IRIS (Integrated Referral and Intake System), rolled out in January 2022 for partner agencies to make and receive referrals. In eight months, the Adams County AOK Network has seen a 28% increase in referrals. Through intentional engagement about shared values related to children and families, the AOK Network is stronger, seeing a 73% increase in members. More work will be done to strengthen these relationships.
5 Years Ago
- Agencies did not understand the challenges families face using public transportation
- WIC coupons were of equal value, regardless of vendor
- Mini food pantries did not stay filled
- No community intake and referral system in place
- Partner agencies understand the difficulties families face navigating transportation
- Agencies created Google Map directions to share with their clients
- Partnership with WIC and grant from the Quincy Medical Group doubled the value of WIC coupons at Farmer’s Markets
- Online intake and referral system launched and active
In fall 2022, the Adams County AOK Network is launching an awareness campaign about food pantries in the county and the responsibility of the community to keep the mini-pantries filled. The AOK Network will continue to maintain communication with the public transportation system and advocate for a new bus stop at the Adams County Health Department. IRIS will continue to be introduced to new agencies in the community, and current partners will continue to make and receive referrals.