Anti-hunger advocates applaud Iowa HHS’ decision to submit a plan for Summer P-EBT benefits

Anti-hunger advocates across the state are applauding the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services for their decision to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide summer nutrition benefits to children in Iowa through the Summer P-EBT program.

“Day after day we see more new faces at our food pantries,” said Anne Bacon, Executive Director of IMPACT Community Action Partnership. “The P-EBT Summer Benefits will help ensure that Iowa’s children will not go hungry this summer. I am so thankful that DHHS is making this happen.”

Summer 2023 P-EBT benefits will provide an estimated $28.9 million in nutrition benefits to 241,000 children in the state of Iowa, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This amounts to an estimated $120 in benefits per child who is eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals in the state.

“Families struggling with food insecurity this summer will be greatly supported by Iowa adding the P-EBT benefits,” said Clarissa Thompson, Executive Director of Mid-Iowa Community Action. “Thousands of children in our service area of Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Tama counties can now know their most basic of needs, food, will be met this summer.”

“Leaving an unhealthy relationship often means losing economic security and the means to regain it,” said Lindsay Pingel, Director of Community Engagement with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Accessing programs like SNAP and P-EBT impacts an individual’s ability to meet basic needs and keep their families safe. Nutrition benefits enable survivors and their children to get back on their feet during this critical time. They can mean the difference between a lifetime of economic hardship and a future free from violence.”

Iowa is one of 10 states that has not yet officially submitted a Summer P-EBT plan to USDA, and has until July 14 to do so. Over 40 organizations had signed on to a letter to Iowa’s leaders, encouraging them to submit a Summer P-EBT plan to USDA before the July 14 deadline. The letter and an accompanying press release were set to be made public on June 28, but news reports on Wednesday morning indicated that Iowa HHS reversed course and now plans to participate in the program. Iowa HHS had previously stated that Iowa was not going to submit a Summer P-EBT plan to USDA.

“At a time when state-level policy decisions like the ending of boosted SNAP benefits and complicating SNAP application and renewal policies are making it harder for Iowa children to get the food they need, it is critical that we use every opportunity to draw down money that’s available to feed Iowa’s children,” said Natalie Veldhouse, Policy Advocate with Common Good Iowa. “We are thankful that HHS has decided to pursue these additional nutrition benefits that will support hundreds of thousands of children in Iowa.”

Advocates stress that the added benefits will be especially helpful right now as food banks, food pantries, and other social service agencies are seeing record-breaking numbers of Iowans turn to them for food assistance.

“Currently, the Urbandale Food Pantry is serving more families than in its entire history with an average of 1,200 youth every month,” said Patty Sneddon-Kisting, Executive Director of Urbandale Food Pantry. “We know that many children go without during the summer months and wholeheartedly welcome any opportunity that provides additional benefits to some of our most vulnerable populations.”

“In May 2023, we received nearly 2,000 lbs. of food donations to our three pantries and had to purchase another 6,000+ lbs. to keep enough food available to meet the demand in Bremer, Winneshiek, and Howard counties,” said Trisha Wilkins, CEO of Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation. “With financial resources and physical capacity for pantry operations stretched thin, we applaud the State of Iowa for helping to ensure that available funding to support nutrition needs is pursued for Iowans.”

IHC thanks its coalition partners for their ongoing advocacy to ensure Iowan are able to access the nutritious food they need to live and thrive. The original letter from advocates that was going to be released on Wednesday, June 28, is available below.

A Letter from the Board Chair

Hey there, it’s Luke Elzinga, board chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition. Now that Iowa’s 2023 legislative session has come to a close, and SF 494 has been signed into law, I wanted to reach out and thank you for all your advocacy this session.

It certainly wasn’t an easy or fun job to do, but together, our advocacy made a difference for Iowans. It can be hard to celebrate your victories in the face of losses (trust me, I’m the worst at this), but it’s important to do so.

Thanks to your help, and the help of all our advocates…

  • We successfully fought back against food restrictions for SNAP and brought national attention to the ridiculous proposal in House File 3 to limit SNAP purchases to the WIC-approved food list.
  • While we were unable to kill the asset test for SNAP entirely, we did successfully lobby to see the asset limit increased from $2,750 up to $15,000, with an additional exemption of up to $10,000 in value for a second vehicle.
  • We helped raise public awareness of hunger and centered the voices of people with lived experience in media interviews, subcommittee meetings, a public hearing, and press conferences.
  • We ensured SF 494 had bipartisan opposition in the House, including from members of leadership.

None of this would have been possible without all your advocacy.

We don’t have any paid staff at IHC. We have a volunteer board of directors, an amazing group of volunteer advocates (you!), and rely on dues from our members to pay for a contract lobbyist. We’ve been contracting with John and Cyndi Pederson of Pederson Consulting for the past few years and have been very pleased with their work.

Our members make this work possible. Without your support, IHC would not exist. Whether you’re an individual or organization, you can become a member of our coalition today – contributing whatever amount fits with your budget. If you’re already a member of IHC, you can expect to hear from us in the coming weeks about renewing your commitment.

Want to learn more about becoming a member of IHC? We’d be happy to talk with you about the benefits of membership and joining our coalition. Contact us at

We’ll also be sharing more details about becoming a member of IHC at our next monthly meetup on Wednesday, June 21, at 10:00am. We’d love to have you join us every month for the latest anti-hunger news in Iowa!

June 2023 IHC Monthly Meetup
Wednesday, June 21, 10:00am


Collaboration is key to this work, and we would love for you to deepen your involvement with IHC. We have a number of opportunities to do so:

  • Apply to join IHC’s board of directors. Help lead the organization and provide governance through the board of directors. Board applications are due Friday, June 23. Please note: this opportunity is only available to dues-paying members.


  • Join one of IHC’s committees. Our Policy, Communications, and Outreach & Membership Committees are all in need of volunteers! If you’re interested in joining a committee, please email us at
  • Attend our annual meeting on Wednesday, July 19. We’ll be hosting a hybrid event this year, with options to join online or in-person at DMARC’s headquarters on the southside of Des Moines. Connect with anti-hunger advocates from across the state and help IHC brainstorm our policy priorities for 2024!

IHC’s 2023 Annual Meeting
Wednesday, July 19, 12:00-3:30pm

The fight to end hunger in Iowa continues. Though we’ve had some discouraging policy losses recently, we’re already gearing up and getting ready for what’s next. We’ll be planning, strategizing, and training during the off-session. And with the Farm Bill debate heating up over the summer, you’ll be hearing from us again sooner rather than later.

Thanks again for all you do!

Luke Elzinga
Chair, Iowa Hunger Coalition

Statement from the Iowa Hunger Coalition on the Signing of SF 494

Yesterday, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 494 into law. The Iowa Hunger Coalition, along with a broad coalition of advocates and groups, has been opposed to this legislation from the start, and had called on Gov. Reynolds to veto SF 494. We are disappointed in the decision by Gov. Reynolds to sign SF 494 into law, but not surprised.

The simple fact is SF 494 will remove thousands of Iowans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The additional administrative hurdles contained in SF 494, including an asset test for SNAP, will create more barriers for struggling Iowans trying to access assistance.

SNAP enrollment in Iowa is nearing a 15-year low. Meanwhile, food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations across the state are seeing record-breaking numbers of people turning to them for assistance. Clearly, SNAP is already inaccessible to tens of thousands of Iowans facing food insecurity. Instead of improving access to nutrition benefits, Iowa’s leaders have chosen to target SNAP and other public assistance programs Iowans rely on.

It is not lost on us that, on the day before signing SF 494, Gov. Reynolds announced $5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to support food bank infrastructure in Iowa. As the Governor rightfully stated in the accompanying release, “access to fresh foods is a challenge for those facing food insecurity and soaring inflation has made it even harder.”

We dispute, however, the Governor’s assertion that “Iowa is making long-term investments to reduce food insecurity in our communities.” Make no mistake: this one-time $5 million investment of federal funds to Iowa’s food banks will not make up for the upwards of $18 million estimated to be denied in SNAP benefits to Iowans on an annual basis as a result of SF 494. SNAP is the best tool we have in the fight against food insecurity, and private charity is not a replacement for social safety net programs.

To top it off, the bipartisan federal debt ceiling deal is poised to expand SNAP work requirements to adults age 50-54. It is estimated this will kick 9,000 older Iowans off the program. Research on work requirements has shown that they do not lead people to meaningful employment, but instead remove people from SNAP who cannot meet the requirement and leave them worse-off than they were before.

These policy changes will harm Iowa and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state. Thousands of Iowans will be negatively impacted by the actions of our state and federal government. Too many Iowans are struggling right now. Increased costs for essentials like food, housing, and health care still outpace wages. As a state, we should be coming together to make sure all our neighbors have the food they need to live and thrive. Instead, these attacks on SNAP will take food off the tables of Iowans.