Rooftop Garden Will Offer Workforce Training for Fostered Youth

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Homeless Youth Center is hoping to turn a vacant plot of land into a social entrepreneurial business aimed at helping kids aging out of foster care.

If Des Moines City Council approves the zoning for the lot, which was originally commercial when bought by the nonprofit, then the special project will be located at 2705 E. Euclid Avenue.

Rooftop Gardens will serve as a three month workforce training program, where foster care youth will learn important soft skills while also growing, harvesting and packaging produce from the garden.

“It's utilizing agriculture here in Des Moines for workforce training, so we partnered with Hy-Vee, who will be purchasing all the produce at a set price. And we're able to have these youth go through this three or four month workforce training program and then help them get a job afterwards here in our community,” said IHYC Director Toby O’Berry.

Participants will work for 30 hours a week, Monday through Friday, and will earn a stipend of about $12 an hour. The program will grow roughly 1,000 units of produce a month, which will then be sold at the local Hy-Vee. 

“Renewable produce and herbs from our neighborhood ... and it’s sold in our local grocery store. There’s nothing better than our farm-to-market chain when it’s a block away from the store,” said Douglas Acres Neighborhood Association President Joe Youngwirth.

Initially, several residents bordering the lot expressed concerns over privacy and how the parking lot would align with property lines. O’Berry says these are easy fixes that can easily be compromised by increasing landscaping and decreasing parking by pulling the parking up away from the borders.

If approved next month by the Des Moines City Council, construction will begin this summer, with a grand opening scheduled for 2021.

“They just need an opportunity to have a couple months of some soft skills training to be able to get a job, and it really is something where the youth that have been in foster care have just kind of lost that lottery in life. It's no fault of their own that they were born into a family that wasn't able to provide for them. And so we're trying to help these youth get back on their feet, give them the tools to be financially independent and be contributing members into our community,” said O’Berry.

For more details on Rooftop Gardens, click here.

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