2024 State of Iowa Legislative Recap

The 90th General Assembly of the Iowa State Legislature adjourned on Saturday, April 20, after a final flurry of legislative activity. In the following weeks, legislation was sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds for signature. Now, we can finally provide an update of what happened this legislative session – we’re sorry to have kept you waiting!

Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Project

One positive development this legislative session was the Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Project, which was included in an agriculture appropriations bill (SF 2421) and signed into law on May 9, 2024. This is a new pilot program that will be administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). The bill provides $300,000 in matching funds to schools, food banks, and emergency feeding organizations to purchase fresh produce, meat and poultry, dairy products, eggs, and honey produced by a farm or business that participates in Choose Iowa.

While this is a small investment, and there are still many questions about how the pilot will be administered, we are happy to see movement in our legislature to support local food purchasing incentives for schools, food banks, and other anti-hunger organizations. We will be sure to provide more details and updates on the Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Project as they become available.

Advocates at the Iowa Food System Coalition’s Local Food and Farm Day on the Hill on January 25, 2024.

Stopping Harmful Legislation

Thanks to the work of a multitude of advocates, many harmful bills were stopped this legislative session, including two the Iowa Hunger Coalition actively opposed.

The first bill, HF 2608, would have created additional barriers for eligible non-citizens to access public assistance programs, as well as adding a vague “smuggling” provision to Iowa criminal code. This bill was unnecessary, costly, and harmful. It was one of three anti-immigrant bills introduced this session in the House Judiciary Committee.

And while HF 2608 did ultimately not advance out of Committee, another anti-immigrant bill, SF 2340, did pass both chambers and was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on April 10, 2024. Two different lawsuits have already been filed in response, one by the U.S. Department of Justice, and another by civil rights groups.

Our friends at Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice have been doing some amazing work organizing and advocating against harmful anti-immigrant legislation in our state. Please check them out if you haven’t already!

The second bill, SSB 3175, would have further criminalized homelessness and created “camps” for unhoused people. This bill appears to be the first foray into Iowa by the Cicero Institute, an Austin-based think tank that pushes laws to criminalize homeless encampments across the country. Thankfully, there was a broad coalition of opposition to this bill, and it died quickly this session—but we can assume this is not the last we’ve seen of this effort in Iowa.

Guaranteed Income Ban Signed into Law

A bill that prohibits cities and counties from implementing guaranteed income programs, HF 2319, was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on May 1, 2024. The Iowa Hunger Coalition lobbied against this bill, and was disheartened to see it signed into law.

There is currently only one guaranteed income pilot operating in Iowa, UpLift: The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot. Preliminary purchasing data from UpLift shows that 40.8% of all funds have been spent on groceries – the single largest of all categories of spending.Despite this new law, the UpLift pilot study will still be able to be completed, and a final evaluation report is expected in spring 2026. The guaranteed income ban was model legislation of Opportunity Solutions Project, a Florida-based free market think tank, which has introduced similar legislation in a number of other states.

Lack of Meaningful Action to Address Hunger and Food Insecurity

Ultimately, we did not see meaningful action to address hunger and food insecurity during the 2024 Iowa legislative session, despite a number of bipartisan, commonsense policy proposals.

IHC board chair Luke Elzinga speaks during a Summer EBT rally on January 17, 2024.

Double Up Food Bucks
State investment in the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program has been a longtime priority of IHC and other groups. We were encouraged at the start of the session to see the introduction of HF 2022, which would provide $1 million in state funding for Double Up Food Bucks. The bill was sponsored by three House Republicans: Rep. Shannon Latham, Rep. Chad Ingels, and Rep. David Young.

We believe the best way to encourage healthy eating among SNAP participants is to incentivize the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can often be prohibitively expensive. Double Up Food Bucks does exactly that. Despite broad bipartisan support, the state failed to act on Double Up Food Bucks in the 2024 legislative session.

Healthy School Meals for All
Last session, Rep. Sami Scheetz recruited nearly 20 House Republicans to co-sponsor HF 575, which would expand free school meals to all students who qualify for reduced-price school meals. The bill was still eligible for the 2024 session, but House Education Committee Chair Rep. Skyler Wheeler declined to assign the bill a subcommittee, stopping any forward momentum.

One exciting development was the introduction of HF 2368 by Rep. Matthew Rinker (a Republican), which would provide universal free school lunch in Iowa. Unfortunately, the bill language dropped the day before the first funnel deadline, and never really stood a chance.

Grocer Reinvestment Fund
While there was some initial momentum behind creating a Grocer Reinvestment Program and Fund, this measure failed to get past the legislative finish line. Rep. Brian Lohse and the Center for Rural Affairs spearheaded this effort, and the bill language went through multiple revisions (the most recent of which was HF 2599). There were some great bipartisan negotiations around this bill, including the inclusion of a $100,000 grant program for fresh fruit and vegetable processing championed by Rep. Chad Ingels. Unfortunately, this program was not included in the final budget for the state.

Summer EBT
The single best return-on-investment for Iowa’s state legislature in combating hunger and food insecurity is Summer EBT. After Gov. Kim Reynolds announced December 2023 that Iowa would not be participating in the new federal childhood nutrition program, IHC spoke out, launched a petition, organized a sign-on letter, and rallied at the Capitol, demanding the state reverse course. Summer EBT would provide $29 million in food assistance for 245,000 low-income Iowa kids.

Democrats introduced bills in the House (HF 2140) and Senate (SF 2039) that would direct the state to participate in Summer EBT. Rep. Chuck Isenhart also introduced a separate bill in the House (HF 2042), which in addition to directing the state to participate in Summer EBT, would direct $700,000 to conduct a research study on the nutritional outcomes of Summer EBT, as well as providing $2.8 million in funding for Double Up Food Bucks. None of these bills advanced.

Thank You for Your Ongoing Advocacy

Thank you to all of our anti-hunger advocates from across the state for your hard work during the 2024 legislative session! We had a few small wins this session, but with food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations across the state facing record-breaking need, our state government needs to start getting serious on this issue.

In just a few months, we’ll be holding our 2024 Annual Meeting (more details coming soon). I hope you can join us during the legislative “off-season” to strategize how we can ensure Iowa’s state legislature prioritizes addressing hunger and food insecurity in 2025. Thank you for all you do!

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