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Food advocates starting farmers' market to make healthy options more accessible to low-income individuals

“We really believe that fresh, healthy foods should not be a luxury item and so we work really hard to grow nutritious good food here," Monika Owczarski said.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bringing fresh, healthy and affordable produce to those in need is Monika Owczarski's goal. 

Through a partnership with Crystal Freeman, Broadlawns Medical Center and other urban farmers, they will be bringing a farmers' market to the Riverbend community.

“We’re going to have fresh food vendors, we’ll have food trucks, we’ll have just a plethora of options for people that not only gives opportunity to small businesses to be able to sell and market … but it’ll also give people who live in the neighborhood opportunities to make purchases and eat things they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Owczarski said.

The Heart of Des Moines Farmers' Market will give residents in the area access to fresh produce like broccoli, lettuce, spinach and collard greens.

Owczarski is the owner and operator of Sweet Tooth Farm, an urban garden in the 50314 zip code. She helps feed fresh produce to those who are unable to easily get access to it themselves or able to afford it.

“We really believe that fresh, healthy foods should not be a luxury item and so we work really hard to grow nutritious good food here,” Owczarski said.

The urban farmer said at the farmers' market, they will try to work with everybody to make sure they can get items if they can’t afford them.

“We will be accepting EBT and we’re also in the process of getting approved to accept Double Up Food Bucks, which people can maximize the amount of vegetables they get for the same price,” said Kennady Lilly, part owner of Radiate DSM.

Radiate DSM is an urban garden and business that Lilly started this year with her co-owner MJ Noethe. They will also be involved with the farmers' market.

“Food accessibility, there’s so many people in Des Moines and all over that don’t have food access, which is a super important thing,” Noethe said. “You know a lot of the times, only like a gas station and or like a liquor store.”

And food accessibility is what Owczarski has been advocating for for a while.

Her fight for accessibility garnered her a spot on the Des Moines Food Security Task Force, which she soon left because she says was not going to help anyone.

“It was pretty clear no resources, no tangible money and no action was going to be put into this,” Owczarski said. “It was mainly lip service and a link on a website.”

However, Kathy Byrnes with the Food Security Task Force said it is more than a link on the website.

“For the first few months the group is trying to help people grow food in whatever space they have,” Byrnes said.

To do this, the group is hitting on four points:

  • How to plant and grow food
  • The infrastructure a person would need
  • How to raise animals like chickens
  • Land accessibility and food quality

According to Byrnes, every few months the group's focus will change.

The Heart of Des Moines Farmers' Market will begin Saturday May 1 from 2-4 p.m. It will take place every Saturday through September at Forest and 6th Avenue in Des Moines.

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