Prochotsky provides fresh produce to the less fortunate

Prochotsky provides fresh produce to the less fortunate

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Emmanuel Ahonkhai

 

Illinois Wesleyan University junior pre-med Jennifer Prochotsky initiated a gleaning project to distribute free fresh produce to West Bloomington’s food desert (a geographical area without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food).
“I think that’s kind of just always been who I am. I really like to interact with people, to listen, talk, help in any ways that I can. I think that’s part of what gives me life,” Prochotsky said. ”In our family, there’s just an expectation that you treat everybody with kindness” she says, “that if you see somebody who needs help, never question that, you just help them.”
Prochotsky has been involved in a variety of community engagement activities. One of the most recent was her internship at the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) this summer.
The project started simply as action research for Prochotsky, who has some background study experience in food justice issues.
As part of her research, on a Thursday in June, she walked the streets of West Bloomington, speaking to locals and visiting grocery stores to find out how much fresh produce was available to the residents at reasonable prices.
Her findings were, as past research work had also concluded, not enough. Given what this spelled for residents’ nutrition, Prochotsky decided to try to implement the idea of pop-up produce stands.
She first contacted the coordinator of the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market Association with a request to glean unsold produce, which she intended to use for sourcing the stands.
He approved and soon enough, what started as a small research project became an initiative that’s come to involve over a hundred volunteers and even hundreds more beneficiaries in the past months.
An online sign up mechanism and group email address were created and the location of the weekly pop-up stands is now announced on initiative’s Facebook group, “From Farm to Food Pantry.”
While still interning at WBRP this summer, Prochotsky obtained grant funding to aid in the production of a West-side themed calendar, which aims to promote community pride and help advertise local agencies and businesses.
Prochostsky’s summer community engagement adventures include participating in this year’s State Farm Community Partnership Project (CPP), working on the Enterprise Philanthropy team.
Through this project, she worked on a proposal to the company’s Marketing Department to expand the Town Hall programs.
Before beginning college at IWU, Prochotsky spent a year in West Africa working with Mercy Ships, a global charity that operates free hospital ships in developing nations around the world.
Speaking about the people she’s met along the way in her endeavors, Prochotsky says that one thing that always resonates in her is how much more similar we all are than different.
“Our circumstances may be different,” she said “but at the core of who we are, we have the same values, the same desires. So that’s kind of just refreshing, it’s not threatening,” Prochotsky said.
Thinking of her future with a medical degree in her backpack, Prochotsky would really love to go back to Africa and spend time working on women’s health issues – an area that she is very passionate about and believes that she might ultimately pursue.