The city of Dubuque plans to help address food deserts by putting in a hydroponics system. That’s where produce can be grown in water instead of soil, making it accessible year-round. Matthew 25 in Cedar Rapids has been growing food using a hydroponics system for a few years now. They use a 500-gallon reservoir to pump water and nutrient solutions to the plants.

“It runs down through the root zone of each plant and recirculates back into the reservoir,” explained Matthew Arndt, Farm Manager for the Matthew 25 Cultivate Hope program. 

”Here we’re in mid-December, and we have fresh lettuce that can go right upstairs to our café customers,” Arndt said. In addition to serving Groundswell customers, they’re able to provide fresh produce to their Cultivate Hope Corner Store on Ellis Boulevard.

“The neighborhood our corner store serves was a food desert before then where the people had, you know, maybe convenience stores and gas stations as options. So to have lettuce grown for them year-round two blocks away helps people out,” said Arndt.

The city of Dubuque hopes to use a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to address food deserts of its own.

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