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Des Moines student-run market offers another way to learn

DES MOINES — During an afternoon lull at Des Moines Public Schools’ recently opened Central Market, teacher Kevin Anderson trained the store’s student manager on how to close down the cash registers at the end of the night.

Roosevelt High School senior and manager Lauren Chayet and Anderson, the district’s animal science instructor and FFA advisor, flipped through a binder as Anderson explained in detail how the computer creates nightly reports.

That April afternoon, Beau, Anderson’s 4-year-old golden retriever who has been around students since he was a pup, joined them. The dog wandered around the store, past the coolers full of meat students raised, flowers students arranged, and shelves stocked with Iowa-made lotions and candles.

“It’s a classroom, it just looks different,” Anderson said of the market. “We do want this business to be sustainable. We want it to be profitable because we want to teach kids how to actually run a business.”

The Des Moines Register reports Anderson got the idea for the student store about two years ago after visiting a high school on Chicago’s southside with its own student-run grocery. Anderson was determined to start one at the district’s Central Campus building. But plans were delayed for a year in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The store officially opened in late March.

The hope is that the market will become a learning tool at Central Campus, Anderson said. There is also an agricultural business class in the works that will incorporate the store.

Fareway Market donated the necessary freezers, coolers, shelving and even grocery bags, he said.

Chayet became involved in developing the store earlier in the school year as part of Anderson’s sales manager independent study course.

“My part is getting the store set up. I kind of got to choose where things like the meats and produce (were) supposed to be in the store,” Chayet said.

She also assists with cleaning, working the registers, stocking shelves and training fellow students.

Chayet is proud of how the store turned out.

“All of it is pretty much my favorite because it’s something that I have helped build, kind of from the ground up. I mean, the whole thing (is) kind of like my baby,” she said.

Helping to develop Central Market took Chayet out of her comfort zone but she gained business and leadership skills, particular when it comes training people to work in the store.

Valley High School junior Madison Eppert is another of Anderson’s students who works as a cashier in the store.

The store is small but has everything from milk to fresh produce to student-made pottery, Eppert said. And the students working in the market know a lot about the products being sold.

“Any questions that people have we’re usually able to answer since we have raised all the meat,” she said. That’s because the Des Moines agricultural program also includes classes in which students raise animals to be shown at the Iowa State Fair and to be processed as meat.

Anderson is developing an agricultural business class to incorporate marketing, finance and other aspects of Central Market. Starting next year, the students will have more responsibilities when it comes to running the store.

“Why not give kids a class where they can do it themselves?” he said.

Most of the students who take part in Des Moines’ agriculture-based classes have never lived on a farm, he said. Through Central Campus they are able to experience everything from breeding animals to growing plants.

“We want kids to see all of the many careers that are in agriculture. In order to do that, we take them through the entire system. So they see everything from the breeding of the animals to the retail side,” he said.

The goal over time for the store is to sell more “products that are raised, grown or produced by DMPS students,” he said.

Central Market, 205 E. County Line Road in Des Moines, is open year round from 3-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Masks are required.

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