YSS Creates First-Ever Rooftop Urban Garden in Iowa Run by At-Risk Youth

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DES MOINES, Iowa — This year, Iowa’s Youth and Shelter Services is expecting to break ground on Iowa’s first-ever rooftop, urban garden.

This garden will be operated by teens the nonprofit assists with the help of YSS staff. 

YSS is calling this a social entrepreneurial program. Participants will have access to healthy, locally grown food, receive nutrition education, and be involved in community engagement. 

The nonprofit has raised over $2 million for this garden, with the help of grants from partners such as Microsoft. 

The garden will include fresh basil, thyme, and romaine lettuce that will be housed in retrofitted shipping containers. Hy Vee has agreed to purchase the products from the garden at a set price. 

Teens involved in this program will earn $12/hour and work 30 hours a week. 

YSS president, Andrew Allen, said the goal of the program is to connect transitional youth, living in an urban setting, to agriculture. 

“If you can take young people who want jobs, who are having a difficult time because of some past experiences, employing them at a livable wage to give them real-life job experience, connect them to agriculture in a way that gets them excited about earning a paycheck and being productive and set them up for long term success,” Allen said. “That is why we do what we do.” 

YSS plans to break ground on the rooftop garden this spring. It will be located in Des Moines on East Euclid Avenue.  

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