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Symposium connects groups and technology; ways to bridge local digital divide

CU-CitizenAccess was at eBlack Champaign-Urbana's Campus-Community Symposium this weekend to cover the discussion between groups and organizations on how to better connect the community and technology.

This two-day symposium aimed to take a step toward bridging the digital divide between underserved residents and available technological resources.
As the Big Broadband project nears construction, groups and organizations are looking at ways to use the super-fast network to benefit those residents who are in the most need of training, employment, education and digital literacy.

Discussion panels ranged from community engagement, social services and technology, education, youth and technology, religious groups and technology and media and technology.

Click on a sess

New study takes first-time look at Champaign County's housing needs

by Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess — The dream of owning an affordable home is out of reach for one out of three Champaign County residents, according to a new regional housing study commissioned by local government agencies and cities.

The housing study, prepared by Columbus, Ohio-based consultants Vogt Santer Insights, estimates that the median home value for the county this year is $139,419.

The News-Gazette/ A house in the 200 block of Green Street. A new regional housing study shows that owning a house is out of reach for one in three Champaign County residents.

Volunteers take on food challenge

By Julie Wurth/The News-Gazette URBANA — They can give up meat, they can give up snacks, but Lord help them if you take away their coffee.

Volunteers taking part in a challenge to eat on a food stamp budget for a week are finding the hardest part may be giving up their morning caffeine.

Brenda Koester didn’t even try.

“I’m doing a cheater’s version,” Koester, coordinator of the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center, said Monday morning, the second day of her challenge. She is simply not counting her daily cup of Strawberry Fields coffee.

The News-Gazette/Jim Hires, left, Exec. Director and Cheryl Precious, director of

Convenience stores netting more local food stamp dollars as usage soars

By Pam G. Dempsey — Champaign native Miesha Jones spends the $315 a month she receives in federal food assistance benefits at Sam’s Club.

Jones, the single mother of a three-year-old daughter, usually takes her monthly shopping trip to the bulk food club or, on occasion, Wal-Mart.

CU-CitizenAccess/The number of convenience stores accepting food stamps has increased in Champaign County over the past three years. The use of food stamp spending at these stores has some health officials worried over the lack of fresh and nutritional food choices.

Bilingual programs see growth, challenges

By A.M. Cole—Evelin Luna carries herself with an air of confidence uncommon for a 15-year-old. She is comfortable around adults, aware of the issues concerning the local Latino community and unafraid to address the Urbana School Board in her native language. It wasn’t always so.

A.M. Cole/ Brian, a third grader in Lena Sacco's bilingual class, writes down observations he made during their science lesson on May 12, 2010.

Local police departments continue to deny open records requests

By Dan Petrella— Complaints filed by white residents with the Champaign Police Department were three times more likely to be upheld than those filed by black residents, an analysis of police records from 2006 to 2008 shows.

Dan Petrella/A police cruiser sits outside the Champaign Police Department on the corner of University Avenue and First Street in Champaign. An analysis of police records dated from 2006 to 2008 show that compliants filed by white residents were three times likely to be upheld than those filed by black residents

Farmers markets offer better access to fresh foods for low-income families

By Jhane Reifsteck— Local farmers markets in Champaign and Urbana, IL have started accepting LINK cards, creating more options for low-income people and families to obtain fresh foods.

CU Citizen Access/ A woman shops at a farmers' market in Urbana. Local farmers markets have started to accept government benefits such as food stamps as payment for goods, giving receipients more fresh food options.

Extras: Feeding a Need

At the end of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s 2008 fiscal year, it was serving approximately 33,000 people. By the end of 2009, it was up to 43,000.

The food bank distributes food to 14 counties, including Champaign County. As more people have been using the services available, the places that provide those services need more resources to keep up.

Susan Kantor

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.