Increasing Accessibility to Organic Food in Iowa

Food deserts in the heartland? 

The state of Iowa is America's farmland and second-largest exporter of agricultural products in the United States. In 2018, Iowa ranked first or second in the production of corn, soybean, red meat, and eggs (2019 Iowa Agricultural Statistics). Despite the agricultural abundance, there are numerous barriers for all people in the state to access healthy food. Impoverished areas are marked by food deserts, or places where fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole foods are extremely hard to find. Remote rural areas become food deserts when the last remaining grocery store shuts down. Many people who live in downtown Des Moines are more than a mile from the nearest supermarket as chain grocers would rather develop business in the suburbs. These food deserts hit low-income communities the hardest. 

Poverty in Iowa 

Poverty in Iowa between 2010 to 2017 were reflective of national trends, dropping steadily from the early 2010s.
Between 2010 to 2017, the number of children (under 18) living in poverty dropped from 115, 731 to 90, 246. 
Public assistance programs like SNAP lowers the barrier of entry to affordable and healthy food. 

Food Assistance

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or  Quest cards can be used in grocery stores and selected farmers markets in Iowa. In 2012, $595M was allotted for food assistance in Iowa. In 2018, the allotment dropped to $443M. (Data was gathered in September 2019 and 2019 results should not be seen as conclusive.)

Food assistance programs are underutilized at local farmers markets

Many SNAP recipients who live near farmers markets do not know that the market accepts SNAP. 

Iowa Wireless EBT Program makes using EBT at Farmer's Markets Possible 

In recent years, farmers markets have partnered with Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to accept EBT. This makes food more accessible to low-income communities while helping local and organic farms do business and create healthier communities.
Find a farmers market or organic farm near you!

Iowa Farmers Market Address and Dates 2019

Learn More

Are you a farmer or vendor?
See how you can partner with Iowa DHS to make your produce more accessible.