The Lake County Board/Forest Preserve Board has approved $300,000 for the updating of the Forest Preserve website AND that they have and are expected to again cut funding to the University of Ill. Ext. Center. The U of I Ext. Center serves the most ‘at risk’ families in the county and helps other organizations serve those families. The Forest Preserve is a wonderful asset in our county and most of us love it, support it, and use it. While there is a strong educational element within the Lake County Forest Preserve it is NOT what the U of I Ext. Center offers.
When the Avon Township Community Foundation started the Community Garden and Food Pantry Production Farm in partnership with Avon Township Center, the U of I Ext. Center was able to provide them the following, just to name a few:
a) Soil testing through the University; which saved the Foundation money on not only the testing but also learned that the ‘garden’ only needed one small amendment to the soil, saving the Foundation money yet again.
b) Water testing through the University; this saved the Foundation money on not only the testing but has allowed the use of the water in the retention pond to water the gardens. This is good for the environment, but makes the whole project viable, as the cost to water would have put the Foundation’s project under before they ever got started.
The U of I Ext Center has also played a key role in running a more efficient Avon Township Food Pantry by:
a) Providing nutritional guidance for the Foundation and food pantry volunteers to help them stretch their dollars by ordering food that has more than one purpose.
b) By helping (through education) to provide food with higher nutritional value for food pantry recipients.
c) By providing healthy recipes that can then be passed along to food pantry recipients.
d) By teaching monthly classes for food pantry recipients, teaching them how to plan healthy meals for their families with the food that the Foundation and the Avon Township Food Pantry supplies them.
e) By providing education about how recipients can stretch their own budgets to purchase food that will supply the best nutritional value possible for their families.
The Avon Township Community Foundation is really striving to teach the community they service on how to be more responsible for their own well being by teaching them:
a) To grow their own food when they can,
b) By teaching them to eat healthier food,
c) By teaching them how to stretch the dollars they do have.
The Avon Township Community Foundation is really committed to the larger picture; if the most “at risk” residents in the community take better care of themselves they are then at “less risk” for obesity, diabetes, etc. This means there will be less stress on other more costly services our community offers (health care). The Avon Township Community Foundation along with the Avon Township Food Pantry could not have made the progress they have made without the assistance of the U of I Ext. Center and their resources in our community.
So the $300,000 for updating a website that seems perfectly functional is pretty ridiculous compared to keeping the U of I Ext Center operational in our County. It’s time to bring this kind of fiscal injustice to light. When you look at the millions in the budget $300,000 becomes a blip on the radar, but losing the services of the U of I Ext Center would be much more than a blip. The work they do in other parts of the County makes the work they have done with the Foundation look like nothing. We cannot loose them for a better Forest Preserve Website.
Here is some additional background info on the U of I Ext Center:
In FY 11 their funding was drastically cut (7.6 million) causing a re-organization and reduction from 76 units in the state to 27 with an associated loss of 120 academic professionals from the field staff.
In FY 12 the U of I Ext Center stands to lose another $13.7 million causing the elimination of more educators, reduce more office staff, loss of unit office locations which will reduce access to the extension programs, additional loss of expertise at the field level, and cuts to all programs including 4-H, Master Gardner, Food and Nutrition educators, etc.
If you feel that the U of I Ext Center has served the area well and that additional funding cuts are NOT in the best interests of our residents, call or write your County Board members as well as your State Senators and Representatives.
On April 28th the Daily Herald wrote an article about the current Forest Preserve website and the reason they budgeted to improve it. Having as many as 100 websites and/or blogs being hosted, I can tell you that it does not require a complete makeover to add the features that the Board officials are seeking. It’s not as though they need to recreate the wheel or host on a completely different platform, although a WordPress setup would get them into the 21st Century.