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New Manitowoc café will bring healthy food options to neighborhood considered to be a 'food desert'

Grow it Forward
Posted at 1:55 PM, Dec 16, 2021

MANITOWOC (NBC 26) — Access to good food with dignity - that’s what local non-profit Grow it Forward works to provide in Manitowoc county. The organization's mission is to fight food insecurity by providing healthy food options for the community. Now, the non-profit is opening a café that will do just that.

Café Harmony will open on January 8th at its Marshall Street Location. The café is partnering with local farmers and Wisconsin businesses to provide locally-sourced food, with all of the proceeds going back to Grow It Forward's mission to fight hunger.

"The idea behind Café Harmony is everything’s going to be local, Wisconsin food that we put into our menu,” said café manager Matthew Brooke.

Many of the menu items will include fresh hydroponic greens grown in-house 365 days a year at Grow It Forward. The café will offer items like salads, wraps, and breakfast items and will also have a coffee bar. Grow It Forward CEO and Founder Amber Daugs says the café will bring much needed high-quality food in an area where many individuals are food insecure.

Grow it Forward

“Right here in this particular neighborhood, the elementary school that is about three blocks away sits with about 50% of their students eligible for free or reduced meals,” Daugs said.

The goal of the café is to make healthy food more available in a neighborhood known as a food desert with little access to grocery stores.

“20% of our entire county population that is food insecure lives in this direct neighborhood. What that means is that individuals have a difficult time receiving healthy local foods because it is a distance to travel to a grocery store,” Daugs said.

“People don’t have local access to grocery stores without relying on public translation or other means to get there,” Brooke said.

Daugs says the limited access to groceries stores has also created a health epidemic. While currently gas stations are the nearest place to shop for many people, the café will give people a nearby resource where they can access fresh food.

"Right now in Manitowoc county, 72% of our county is overweight, 42% are obese," Daugs said. "So we’re wanting to not only feature healthy options in our neighborhood but also accessible options as well.”

The café will be open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m from Wednesday to Saturday. Grow It Forward is also currently looking for more partnerships with Wisconsin businesses. To learn more, you can visit the Grow It Forward website.