Youth & Shelter Services, Inc.

Rooftop Gardens

At Rooftop Gardens, our goal is to carefully cultivate our plants, to nurture them and provide the time and attention they need to put down good roots and stand tall on their own.

It’s the same goal we have for the homeless youth of Iowa. Rooftop Gardens will employ these young men and women to operate our year-round rooftop greenhouse, helping them find the steady ground they need to break the cycle of poverty and engage with the community.

In addition to feeding homeless youth, the resulting produce will also be sold throughout Central Iowa, creating a self-sufficient, environmentally friendly business dedicated to Helping Youth Grow for years to come.


You can Help Youth Grow by investing in Rooftop Gardens. Contact Emma Christianson at 515-689-2325


Iowa Homeless Youth Centers' Rooftop Garden Program will serve transition-age homeless or low-income youth (ages 16-22) to provide employment opportunities, access to locally grown healthy foods, and food and nutrition education. The overall goals of the program are:

  • Break the cycle of poverty by providing guided work experience and a livable wage
  • Improve access to healthy food and meet the nutritional needs for low-income and homeless youth
  • Develop a self-sufficient entrepreneurial project that creates a partnership with our nonprofit organization, for-profit retailers, and consumers in the community.
  • Increase number of low-income and homeless individual's understanding of the connection between diet and health through educational programming (including food-preparation and food-purchasing skills).

To accomplish these project goals, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers will build the gardens on the roof of their Youth Opportunity Center. The gardens will include a combination of hydroponic growing systems (inside of a year-round functioning greenhouse), raised beds, and vertical growing techniques. The Rooftop Gardens Program Coordinator will supervise 12 youth apprentices annually who will operate the growing, harvesting, and packaging of the organic herbs, that will be distributed to local grocery stores, markets, and other retailers to sell to consumers. After construction and initial operating expenses, the Rooftop Gardens will be a self-sufficient program.

The intended outcomes for this project include meeting the food needs of low-income and homeless individuals through food distribution as part of a comprehensive program, and increase participant's self-resiliency of meeting their community's food needs.


Name, logo, and package design courtesy of Meyocks.

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