Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines

Our Health Community – Iowa Food Cooperative

Abbie Sawyer Our Health Community

Iowa Food Cooperative Des MoinesBuying food locally brings so many perks. First, you can feel assured knowing where your food comes from. You may get to know the farmer/grower personally. You know your food travelled a short distance to reach you, resulting in fewer emissions. Plus, you can learn which foods are grown or harvested during certain seasons here in Iowa. You may even discover a new favorite ingredient or way to prepare it.

One place where you can find a variety of locally-produced foods all in one spot is the Iowa Food Cooperative. Now in their 10th year, the Iowa Food Cooperative has grown from their Des Moines location to include a network of satellite pickup spots across Central Iowa. Here, Member Services Coordinator Jennifer Miller and General Manager Gary Huber share more about the history and mission of this local food hub.

Tell us a bit about Iowa Food Cooperative. How did it start?

We needed a better way to connect local farmers with good markets. We’d tried working with existing distributors. Too many barriers. We wanted a direct-to-consumer system. Margins for farmers would be higher, and direct connections between producers and folks eating their foods are best. We settled on building an online grocery store to facilitate commerce between producers and consumers. We worked to put in place the needed components and launched in late 2008.

Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines

From left: Brandy Case Haub, Distribution Coordinator; Jennifer Miller, Member Services; and Gary Huber, General Manager.

How has it evolved?

We started with one location (in Merle Hay Mall) and once-a-month distributions. Our first cycle we had 18 producer members sell $3,278 in product to 38 consumer members. We now distribute products every two weeks, or 26 times a year. We now have ten pick up locations across Central and Southern Iowa, plus home delivery in the Des Moines metro area. Each cycle we’ll have around 80 producers sell products to around 260 different consumer members, with total sales approaching $18,000 each cycle.

What is it today?

It’s a food distribution system that’s investing in what we need to feed ourselves year round from local farms. Our 170+ farmers are the key. Each represents a lifeline to the future.
Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines

The Co-op carries a wide range of products, all produced right here in Iowa.

What makes your approach to different?

Our 1,200+ producer and consumer members own the store. Producers must be from Iowa, and they must grow, raise, or make what they sell. They stock the store’s shelves using the software, including setting set their prices and describing their products. Consumers then use the software to purchase products off these virtual shelves. The results are personal relationships between producers and consumers that are not found in any other grocery store. In other words, we compete with affection, and that’s our key difference.

How does your business help people?

We provide a tangible way for people to realize their hopes. These hopes include healing the planet with farms that respect and work with nature. They include healing our bodies with foods that nourish. And they can include healing our hearts and souls by engendering a community of people who care deeply for each other.

Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines asparagus

Seasonal foods are a specialty of the Iowa Food Cooperative, like spring-fresh asparagus.

 

Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines

In addition to fresh food, the Coop also carries locally-produced, shelf-stable items for purchase.

 

Iowa Food Cooperative Des Moines kombucha

Fermented products like kombucha are popular items.

What do you love about the Greater Des Moines community?

It’s been so interesting to see what attracts people to buying local food. Everyone has a unique story, whether it stems from health, environment, heritage, local economics, or taste, yet despite all the differences, the food unites us. As simple as it sounds, food brings us together, as a collective, committed to something that’s important.

What’s next?

Continuing to find opportunities to connect food producers with food consumers. Continuing to build and rebuild the infrastructure necessary for a strong local food system – working with others to establish transportation channels to get products from all over the state, learning about new farmers and food producers, offering more to our members like cooking classes, events, and farmers’ markets. Getting better at what we do.

Anything else?

Give the food co-op a try!

Learn more about Iowa Food Cooperative

About Our Health Community

“Our Health Community” is a blog series by Capital Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center designed to celebrate health-centered services and businesses in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Explore “Our Health Community.”

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