They show up early and eager to capture the freshest produce Iowa farmers have to offer. The Des Moines, Iowa Downtown Farmer’s Market held Saturday mornings from May to October is a success in terms of the variety of fresh produce it offers, the local economic benefits, and in the opportunities it provides for SNAP and WIC clients to utilize their benefits in healthy new ways.
At the start of National Farmers Market Week Aug. 7-14, Angie Tagtow, Executive Director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) talked with Kelly Foss, Director of the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market as they toured nine city blocks filled with a massive array of healthy and creative food options.
“There are waves of market goers,” said Tagtow, a longtime Iowa resident and fan of the market. “The first ones come right at seven and go after the pick of the fresh produce – some own restaurants and want unique items to fill their menus while others just want to feed their families the best in fruits and vegetables.”
From there more than 20,000 people flow through 300 vendors offering produce, flowers, breads, meats, wine, cheese, baked goods and much more. The diversity comes from producers in dozens of counties across Iowa, according to Foss. The market is celebrating its 41st year as a Des Moines tradition with the theme “Feed your Soul, Savor the Experience.”
That kind of selection is perfect for SNAP clients who can shop among 27 farmers who accept EBT benefits at the market. And Iowa is conducting a Double Up Bucks pilot that allows SNAP recipients to get more fruits and vegetables when they spend their SNAP dollars at participating farmer’s markets. WIC clients already can use their vouchers to get more healthy options from more than 140 farmers and 100 roadside stands across Iowa.
“The benefits for everyone who shops for local produce are terrific and the economic benefit to farmers and local businesses has a lasting impact.” said Tagtow. “It’s a healthy win for everyone involved.”
During National Farmers Market Week and all year long, USDA is offering a new opportunity to connect people with local foods wherever they live. The CNPP website’s newest component, My Plate, My State, allows people to look up their state to see what is grown in their community. To learn more, visit: www.choosemyplate.gov/MyState.