DMACC Urban Campus Food Forest Produces Free Food for DMACC Students & Community Members

Posted 4/24/2020

​​​​Relocated area will soon have I.D. signs​

This week, DMACC Urban Campus students and community members celebrated Earth Week 2020 –  including the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day – by tending to and eagerly awaiting fresh produce that is growing inside the College’s Food Forest and Community Garden.

Last year, the Food Forest and Community Garden was relocated from a lot at the corner of 9th and Day St. to the south side of Building #1 on the DMACC Urban Campus in downtown Des Moines.  The Food Forest is a ½ acre area where numerous items can be found:

  • 22 Fruit and Nut Trees
  • Four upcycled 3 ft. x 16 ft. Vegetable Garden Beds
  • Three Honeybee Hives
  • A Variety of Food Producing Perennial Herbs and Shrubs
  • Four Native Prairie Beds
  • Small Learning Barn​

It’s located in a very visible area that promotes interaction and accessibility for DMACC students, faculty, staff and community members. All food produced in the food forest and garden beds is given free-of-charge to DMACC Urban Campus students and community members.

“The DMACC Urban campus is the most diverse campus in the state, with students attending from over 60 countries,” DMACC Urban Campus Provost Dr. Anne Howsare Boyens said. “Many of our students face socioeconomic hardship in their daily lives.”

She said a food security survey was distributed to students at the DMACC Urban Campus in 2017 and over half of the respondents identified as food insecure.

Jenn Riggs, the DMACC Urban Campus Sustainable coordinator, said

this project has been ongoing effort and includes a team of individuals from the DMACC Urban Campus, including the DMACC Urban Provost, the DMACC Sustainable Urban office, the chair of the DMACC Environmental Science department, the campus grounds crew, and a local edible and regenerative landscaping consultant and professional, Jeff Reiland of Abundant Design Iowa.

She said funding for the garden has been provided by a variety of sources including the United Way of Central Iowa, DMACC, the Department of Natural Resources and the City of Des Moines.

Riggs said the food forest will be maintained by the DMACC Urban grounds crew, DMACC Sustainable Urban work study students and volunteers. In addition, a 1,000-hour employee and two work study students will oversee all aspects of the food forest and community garden. 

Like last year, Riggs said the free food will be distributed from the learning barn and within the student life office several times a week, depending upon the harvest.

Melanie Sadeghpour, a DMACC Environmental Science Professor and Program Chair  and a member of the Sustainable Urban Team, said the garden includes outdoor classroom space, a learning barn and ample opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to connect with the food forest.

“Faculty will be encouraged to use the space for teaching, and we will hold regular events, such as lunch and learns, cooking demonstrations, and gardening workshops for students, faculty, staff and community members,” Sadeghpour said.

She said they are also working with Abundant Design Iowa, a local permaculture firm, on a long-term design plan for the food forest.

“We will soon be planting a large, native and edible plant rain garden to mitigate storm water in the food forest area,” Sadeghpour said.                     

The Food Forest and Community Garden recently received a $3,500 grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Act Conservation Education Program (CEP).

Riggs said this grant will enable the College to purchase, design and install eight identification signs through the Food Forest.

She said these signs will be used to mark different areas of the food forest and will contain a picture, a brief description, and a QR scan code that will lead users to the website which will contain more detailed information, recipes and preparation instructions, and activities.

For more information on the Urban Campus Food Forest and Community Garden, click here.​

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