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'It's prevalent, persistent, and really hard to overcome': dealing with food insecurity in central Iowa

The FEED DSM Initiative is educating residents about opportunities to grow their own food.

DES MOINES, Iowa — It's another day on the farm, but Birds & Bees Urban Farm probably doesn't look how you expect. You won't find acres and acres of cornfields.

Everything at fits in one backyard. 

"It's a very old-fashioned thing ... it's kind of like a subsistence farm. But it's an opportunity for us to teach other people to grow their own food," said Kathy Byrnes, Director of Birds & Bees.

Byrnes runs Birds & Bees with her life partner, Ed Fallon. The two of them are also members of the Des Moines Food Security Task Force.

The group was founded in February 2021 to help address food insecurity in the city, and it's a pressing problem. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, large portions of downtown Des Moines are food deserts.

"Food insecurity is prevalent, it's persistent, and it's really hard to overcome. And we're going to get more and more issues with food insecurity as we get more people coming to Des Moines," Byrnes said.

Last week, the task force gave their full report to city council for ways to address food insecurity, with suggestions like allowing urban farms and community gardens to sell their produce on site.

Another development: the creation of an initiative called Food, Equity, and Education for Des Moines, or FEED DSM for short. The FEED website is a hub for resources about growing and raising your own food.

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The cause is only becoming more urgent.

The United Nations has recognized that climate change will likely lead to more food insecurity worldwide.

"Our climate is changing rapidly," said Carl Voss, At-Large City Councilman for Des Moines. "And so the more we can do to rely on locally grown food, the better off that that will be."

Although the food security task force has now given its report to the city council, there is still work on the horizon. The council wants to make similar committees looking at community gardens, urban farming and specifically addressing food deserts in the city.

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