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.

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