Sales of food produced in Polk and Dallas counties added nearly $340,070 to the local economy in 2012, according to the Des Moines Area Religious Council. In addition, $66,000 worth of local foods was purchased by grocery stores, restaurants and institutions in the region.


The nonprofit Eat Greater Des Moines helped collect the data in cooperation with the statewide Regional Food Systems Working Group, which supports local food efforts in 90 of Iowa's 99 counties. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University coordinated the evaluation for one of the first statewide attempts to measure actual impacts of the local food industry on Iowa's economy.


The evaluation tracked local food purchases by grocery stores, restaurants and institutions, and sales from Iowa farm-based enterprises that marketed their products locally in 2012. Nearly 180 businesses and individuals participated in the data collection effort, including 74 buyers and 103 producers of local foods. The evaluation also measured job creation as a result of local food production, processing or utilization, and counted funds leveraged by the regional food groups that make up the statewide Regional Food Systems Working Group network.


"We believe there is an intensely powerful story to tell about the value that local foods bring to our communities and commerce in our region," Aubrey Martinez, director of Eat Greater Des Moines, said in a release. "There is a huge untapped market in our region."


Martinez said reporting institutions' shared local food purchasing makes up less than 1 percent of total food purchasing budgets. Reaching a target of 30 percent local food purchasing would have dramatic benefit in Greater Des Moines and around the state, she said.


The statewide report and the report compiled by Eat Greater Des Moines can both be found online.