Legislative Advocacy Update: 2 Weeks to First Funnel

The Iowa legislature has finished its fourth week of the 2024 session, and just two weeks remain before “first funnel” – the deadline for the majority of bills to have passed out of committee in order to continue through the legislative process. Things are moving quickly! Keep reading for the latest updates from the Capitol.

IFSC’s Inaugural “Food and Farm Day on the Hill” is a Success!

Members of the Iowa Food System Coalition gathered on Thursday, January 25, for the inaugural “Iowa Food and Farm Day on the Hill.” Advocates spoke with legislators about the importance of local food systems in our state, and legislation to support state investment to build on the success of existing initiatives, such as Local Food for Schools (LFS), Local Food Purchasing Assistance Program (LFPA), and Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB).

The Iowa Hunger Coalition is a member of the Iowa Food System Coalition and is involved in IFSC’s Local Food Policy Network Team.

February 15: Healthy School Meals for All Day on the Hill

Iowa Healthy School Meals for All Day on the Hill
Thursday, February 15
9:30am-11:30am
Iowa State Capitol Rotunda, 1st Floor

Advocates will be gathering to talk with legislators about the importance of healthy school meals for all! Register below, or contact schoolmealsforalliowa@gmail.com with any questions!

Updates on Legislation We’re Monitoring

HF 2112: Unnecessary, Costly, and Harmful

On Tuesday, January 30, a subcommittee meeting was held for House File 2112, which IHC opposes. HF 2112 would ban undocumented immigrants from SNAP and other public assistance programs (surprise, this is already current law in Iowa). The bill also adds a vague and potentially harmful “smuggling” provision to the Iowa criminal code.

While the bill did advance out of subcommittee in a 2-1 vote, the subcommittee chair, Rep. Steven Holt, indicated he may be open to removing Division I of the bill (the piece concerning public assistance programs).

ACTION ITEM: Contact Rep. Steven Holt and ask him to strike Division I of HF 2112.

You can also contact all members of the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to oppose HF 2112 when it comes before the full committee for a vote.

HSB 552: Banning Basic Income Programs

Also in the House Judiciary Committee, HSB 552 would ban cities and counties from implementing basic income programs. Rep. Steven Holt, who introduced the bill, stated that this is a response to UpLift: The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot, which he views as “socialism on steroids.” The Iowa Hunger Coalition is opposed to HSB 552.

While full results of the UpLift study will not be complete until 2026, we do know from preliminary purchasing data that 40.8% of all funds have been spent on groceries – the single largest of all categories of spending, with other top categories including retail sales/service (27.5%), transportation (12.4%), and housing/utilities (9.6%).

HSB 552 already passed out of subcommittee on January 18, and advanced out of the full House Judiciary Committee yesterday (February 1). It is now eligible for debate, but we do expect there will be an amendment when it does come to the floor. It will also be renumbered.

ACTION ITEM: Contact your Representative and ask them to vote NO if it comes to the House floor for a vote.

HF 2022: Double Up Food Bucks

House File 2022 would provide $1 million in state funding to the Double Up Food Bucks program administered by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. It is sponsored by three House Republicans: Rep. Shannon Latham, Rep. Chad Ingels, and Rep. David Young.

A subcommittee has still not been assigned for HF 2022, but given that it is in Appropriations and is thereby “funnel-proof,” the timeline is not as tight. Legislators are focusing on bills that must meet the funnel deadline right now, and often Appropriations bills do not take center focus at the start of the session.

ACTION ITEM: After the first funnel deadline, we’ll be stepping up pressure to get a subcommittee assigned. For now, reach out and thank the sponsors of the bill:

Rep. Shannon Lathamshannon.latham@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Chad Ingelschad.ingels@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. David Youngdavid.young@legis.iowa.gov

SSB 3074/HF 2176: Grocer Reinvestment Grant Program

SSB 3074 and HF 2176 are companion bills spearheaded by the Center for Rural Affairs and Rep. Brian Lohse. The Iowa Hunger Coalition is in support of these bills. This legislation is still being actively discussed, with expected amendments forthcoming. It has passed out of subcommittees in both the Senate and House on 3-0 votes. Both subcommittees have been productive, bipartisan conversations.

The intention of this legislation is to provide a grant program for grocery store infrastructure projects, with a focus on areas with low grocery store access. We see this as a positive bill to increase food availability in areas of high need, and low access – especially in rural areas of the state.

ACTION ITEM: Contact members of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Economic Growth and Technology Committee, and ask them to advance these bills in Committee.

HF 575: Expanding Free School Meals

House File 575, which was introduced last session, would expand free school meals to students who qualify for reduced-price meals, expanding access to over 20,000 students in the state.

Despite the fact that a significant number of House Republicans are co-sponsors of this bill, the House Education Committee Chair, Rep. Skyler Wheeler, has said he will not assign a subcommittee meeting for this bill due to ideological opposition. While this is a frustrating setback, we’re exploring other options for how to keep this policy idea alive beyond the first funnel.

ACTION ITEM: Contact the bill’s sponsors to thank them and ask them to advocate with Rep. Wheeler on this issue.

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy!

HF 2112 is Unnecessary, Costly, and Harmful

HF 2112 would require all non-citizen applicants for public assistance programs in the state of Iowa to be verified through the Systematic Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program administered by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and add a vague “smuggling” provision to criminal code.

A subcommittee meeting for HF 2112 has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 30, at 12:00pm in Room 102 (Supreme Court Consult Room). Please contact the members of the subcommittee below and ask them not to advance HF 2112!

Rep. Steven Holtsteven.holt@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Skyler Wheelerskyler.wheeler@legis.iowa.gov
Rep. Rick Olsonrick.olson@legis.iowa.gov


HF 2112 would add unnecessary barriers to access public assistance while increasing costs to the state.

  • Iowa already utilizes the SAVE system to verify non-citizen status for public assistance programs— Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Family Investment Program (FIP/TANF), Hawk-i, and Medicaid—when it cannot be verified by other authorized means.

  • While SAVE can produce results quickly, that is not always the case. The additional verification response time for SAVE is seven federal workdays, and in some cases, can take 10-20 federal workdays. When Iowa is already severely out of compliance with federal requirements related to SNAP application processing timeliness, we cannot afford to create additional hurdles and delays.

  • Using the SAVE system can be costly to states. In FY 2024, the non-federal agency charge per verification case for SAVE was $1.00, but that is set to triple to $3.10 per case by FY 2028. 

The bill would further chill participation in public assistance programs in mixed-status households.

  • SNAP participation among eligible citizen children living with a non-citizen has fallen considerably in the last few years, especially following the “public charge” final rule announcement in August 2019 (which was later reversed in September 2022).
  • HF 2112 reinforces harmful anti-immigrant rhetoric that may prevent mixed-status households from enrolling eligible children in SNAP and other public assistance programs.

HF 2112 could cause confusion and fear among organizations assisting immigrant populations.

  • Vague language in the “smuggling” provision (Division II) is cause for concern among organizations providing assistance to immigrant populations, and could contribute to racial profiling.

  • The bill could inhibit many nonprofit organizations from fulfilling their missions and providing vital services across Iowa’s communities, rural and urban alike.

Nearly 100 Organizations Call on Iowa’s Legislature to Prioritize Summer EBT this Session

98 organizations across the state of Iowa have signed on to a letter calling on Iowa’s legislature to make Summer EBT a priority this legislative session.

Summer EBT would provide $120 in nutrition benefits to nearly 245,000 children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals in the state of Iowa during the summer months. The program is the first new permanent federal childhood nutrition program in twenty years, and was established by a bipartisan act of Congress in December 2022.

The state of Iowa announced on December 22, 2023, that Iowa would not be participating in Summer EBT in 2024. Advocates are calling on the legislature to take action this session to ensure the state participates in 2025 and every year going forward.

Read the full text of the letter, and list of co-signing organizations, below.


We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Iowa General Assembly to pass legislation to ensure Iowa’s participation in the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT). We simply cannot sit out this historic opportunity to address childhood hunger and food insecurity.

Summer EBT would provide $120 in nutrition benefits to nearly 245,000 children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals in the state of Iowa during the summer months. This total of $29.4 million to feed Iowa’s kids translates to $45.2 million in economic activity generated. Iowa would be responsible for half of the administrative costs of this program – an estimated $2.2 million dollars in the first year and $1.3 million in subsequent years. While we acknowledge that is a considerable amount of money, with a surplus of more than $2 billion in our state budget, it is a small price to pay for feeding Iowa’s food insecure children.

Summer EBT is a tried and tested program, with pilot projects gathering evidence on the program’s positive impact since 2011. In a final summary report of these demonstration projects, USDA Food and Nutrition Service found that providing a $60 monthly Summer EBT benefit:

  • reduced food insecurity by 8.3 percentage points and decreased food hardship by 33%;
  • increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
  • and did not increase consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.

While summer meal program sites are an important piece in ensuring Iowa’s kids can continue to access nutritious food during the summer, real barriers to visiting these sites—including lack of transportation, limited hours, and service gaps in rural areas—will continue to exist for many Iowans. Even in urban areas, not every summer food service sponsor can offer multiple meal services—meaning children who live in close proximity to a site still may not have access to enough food in a day. Providing $40 per child in monthly nutritional benefits during the summer will supplement the role summer meal programs play in providing healthy food for Iowa’s children.

With food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger groups facing record-breaking numbers of Iowans turning to them for assistance, and school meal debt rising, we need action from our state’s leaders. Hunger and food insecurity touch the lives of Iowans in every community in our state. Summer EBT is a common sense, evidence-based policy for addressing childhood hunger and food insecurity.

We urge you to make passing Summer EBT a priority in the 2024 Iowa legislative session.

Signed (98),

AAUW Des Moines
American Association of University Women Iowa
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association
AmeriCorps Seniors Program
Astig Planning
Bread for the World
Building Bridges 
Burlington/ West Burlington Area United Way
Clive Community Services
Common Good Iowa
Community Action Agency of Siouxland 
Community Action of Eastern Iowa
Community Action of Southeast Iowa
CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank
Coralville Community Food Pantry
Corridor Community Action Network 
Crisis Intervention Service
Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC)
Des Moines County Extension & Outreach
Dickinson County Hunger Coalition
Domestic Violence Intervention Program
Eat Greater Des Moines
EMBARC
Families Forward Bidwell Pantry
Feed the Pack
Food Rescue Partnership 
Friends of the Family
Good Samaritan Food Pantry
Greater Des Moines Church Women United
Greater Des Moines Diaper Collective
Henry County General Assistance
Homestead 1839
Hunger Free Dallas County / The Food GRID
IMPACT Community Action Partnership
Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Iowa ACEs 360
Iowa Alliance of YMCAs
Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church 
Iowa Catholic Conference
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Iowa Community Action Association
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Iowa FoodCorps
Iowa Hunger Coalition
Iowa Interfaith Power & Light
Iowa Mental Health Advocacy
Iowa Public Health Association
Iowa State Education Association
Iowa Valley RC&D
Johnston Partnership
Jubilee UMC Freedom Center
League of Women Voters Metropolitan Des Moines
The Lord’s Cupboard Community Pantry 
Louisa County Community Services
Lutheran Services in Iowa
Mary J Treglia Community House
MATURA Action Corporation
Milestones Area Agency on Aging
Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity
Mount Pleasant Community School District
National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter
Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County
Nisaa African Family Services
North Iowa Community Action Organization
Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation
Operation Threshold 
Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
RESULTS Iowa
Save the Children Action Network
Sieda Community Action
South Central Iowa Community Action Program
Southeast Linn Community Center
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust 
Table to Table Food Distribution Network 
Thrive Together Today 
Together
Trowel & Error Farm LLC
United Action for Youth
United Way and Community Foundation of Greater Fort Dodge
United Way of Central Iowa
United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States
United Way of East Central Iowa
United Way of the Great River Region
United Way of Mahaska County
United Way of Siouxland
United Way of Story County
United Way of Wapello County
United Ways of Iowa
United Women in Faith, Iowa Conference
Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc. (UDMO)
Urbandale Community Action Network
Urbandale Food Pantry 
Voluntary Action Center of the Iowa Great Lakes
Waverly-Shell Rock Area United Way
West Central Community Action 

IHC Slams Gov. Reynolds’ Decision to Deny Iowa Kids Summer EBT Benefits

The Iowa Hunger Coalition (IHC) strongly condemns the decision by the state of Iowa not to participate in the new federal nutrition program, Summer EBT. This program would have provided each child who is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals an additional $40 per month to use for food during June, July, and August. This means 240,000 children in Iowa will not receive $120 in food assistance during the coming summer of 2024.

“This is an unconscionable decision,” said Iowa Hunger Coalition board chair Luke Elzinga. “Announcing three days before Christmas that we’ve deliberately chosen not to feed hungry kids? The Dickensian parallels write themselves.”

In the announcement, Gov. Kim Reynolds stated that “an EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic,” and HHS Dir. Kelly Garcia stated, “another benefit card addressed to children is not the way to take on this issue.” The Iowa Hunger Coalition could not disagree more strongly with these sentiments.

“The idea that low-income Iowans can’t be trusted to make their own choices about what to feed their kids is incredibly insulting,” said Elzinga. “We’ve somehow decided that parents know best when it comes to school curriculum but not what to feed their kids? Starvation is not a legitimate strategy to reduce childhood obesity.”

Low-income families routinely face struggles in accessing nutritious food due to its high cost. A 2021 USDA study found that the number one reported barrier from SNAP participants to eating healthier was the high cost of healthy food. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans are struggling to put food on their tables right now, and the need is especially high for families with children. An additional $120 in nutritional benefits during the summer would be a huge boon to helping these families provide healthy food for their children.

“An abundance of academic research has made clear the link between food insecurity and obesity in the United States,” said Elzinga. “Gov. Reynolds and Dir. Garcia are either woefully uninformed on this issue, or are using childhood obesity as a distraction from the failures of their administration to address hunger and food insecurity. Their press release praises the fact that enrollment in SNAP is at a 15-year low in Iowa, but when we have food banks and food pantries across the state assisting record-breaking numbers of people, that should be worn as a mark of shame, not a badge of honor.”

The Iowa Hunger Coalition also pushes back on the idea expressed in the press release that Summer EBT is a “COVID-era” program. Summer EBT is the first new federal nutrition program in two decades, and was created by an act of Congress in December 2022. While similar to the Pandemic-EBT program, pilot programs for Summer EBT date back to 2011. The program provides income-eligible families with an EBT card loaded with benefits, similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Food pantries routinely see increased numbers of people seeking assistance during the summer.

“Hunger is a policy choice, and this is just one more unfortunate example of that fact,” said Elzinga. “Summer EBT should be a bipartisan no-brainer policy win for Iowa’s kids. The Iowa Hunger Coalition will be making this an issue with the Iowa legislature in 2024. We can not and will not accept this disastrous decision by Governor Reynolds. It’s deplorable that Iowa’s leadership has chosen to make feeding children a political issue.”

While the press release states that Iowa will “continue to support Iowa children eligible for food assistance year-round by enhancing and expanding already existing childhood nutrition programs,” it does not provide any specifics.

“Iowa has clear opportunities to address hunger and food insecurity through smart, bipartisan policy change,” said Elzinga. “We can invest in the Double Up Food Bucks program to promote the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants. We can expand free school meals to more children in Iowa. We can support our local and regional food systems. At a bare minimum, we should be able to provide nutritional assistance to low-income children through Summer EBT. Instead of seriously addressing the issue, Iowa’s leadership seems more interested in spreading narratives and enacting policies that harm poor people.”

IHC Denounces Sen. Grassley’s Call to Cut SNAP to Pre-Pandemic Levels

The Iowa Hunger Coalition (IHC) denounces calls by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to cut benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to pre-pandemic levels. 

Sen. Grassley’s proposal would cut benefits by $73 per month for the average SNAP household in Iowa, slash the minimum benefit from $23 per month to $19 per month, and lead to a loss of nearly $15 million in overall economic activity to the state of Iowa every month.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of Iowans are struggling to put food on the table. Food banks and food pantries across the state are facing record-breaking need. Meanwhile, SNAP enrollment in Iowa is at a 15-year low. SNAP is already largely inaccessible to many Iowans facing hunger and food insecurity, and benefits do not go far enough. To call for cutting SNAP at this time is at best misinformed.

In a December 7 letter to House and Senate leadership co-authored with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), Sen. Grassley called for cutting SNAP benefits to pre-pandemic levels in the next Farm Bill, which was recently extended by Congress to September 30, 2024:

Returning SNAP to pre-pandemic levels is another important policy reform that must be enacted in the farm bill reauthorization…In order to tame inflation felt by every American family, we must return to the pre-pandemic level of spending in SNAP and make sure any further updates are done at zero-cost.

In policy terms, Sen. Grassley is calling to undo the permanent increase to SNAP benefits that took effect in October 2021 after USDA FNS modernized the Thrifty Food Plan, leading to the first permanent increase in SNAP purchasing power in nearly 50 years. IHC commended the action of USDA FNS on the modernization of the Thrifty Food Plan.

Undoing the TFP modernization would slash SNAP benefits by an estimated 27%. What does that look like in Iowa? From estimates based on the state of Iowa’s October 2023 F-1 SNAP participation report:

  • The average monthly household benefit would decrease from $342.87 to $269.98 (a loss of about $73 per month)

  • The average daily benefit for individuals would decrease from $5.66 to $4.46

  • The average per-meal benefit for individuals would decrease from $1.89 to $1.49

  • The minimum monthly benefit would decrease from $23 to $19

  • $9.7 million less in SNAP benefits coming into the state every month, which translates to a loss of $14.9 million in economic activity in Iowa every month

This would be absolutely devastating to the nearly 268,000 Iowans currently participating in SNAP. Cutting SNAP would harm the health and wellbeing of Iowa’s families, rural communities, and local economies. The emergency food system would face an even greater strain. Iowans are already facing difficult decisions like putting gas in the tank or food in the fridge. The last thing we need to be doing is cutting SNAP benefits.

What Can You Do?

Contact Sen. Grassley’s office and let him know you do NOT support cutting SNAP!

Call Sen. Grassley’s Washington D.C. office at (202) 224-3744.

You can also help spread the word by sharing this blog post and the social media graphics below.

Upcoming Changes to SNAP in Iowa

Starting December 1, 2023, all “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (ABAWDs) must meet work requirements or lose access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

WHO MIGHT BE EFFECTED BY THIS CHANGE?

People between the ages of 18-52, who are mentally and physically able to work, and do not have any dependents in their household are considered ABAWDs (with some exceptions). Veterans, people who are unhoused, and young adults (18-24) who have aged out of the foster care system are exempt from the time limit.

WHAT ARE THE WORK REQUIREMENTS?

ABAWDs must work at least 80 hours in a month in order to avoid losing SNAP benefits. You can meet the requirements by working, volunteering, participating in a job training program, or any combination of the three.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T MEET THE WORK REQUIREMENT?

If you are an ABAWD and do not meet the work requirement, you will be limited to receiving only three months of SNAP benefits every three years. You can apply for and receive benefits again if you can meet the work requirement in the future.

QUESTIONS?

Contact the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-972-2017.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Deepen Your Advocacy Skills this October

We have some upcoming opportunities this month to deepen your anti-hunger advocacy skills that you will not want to miss!

IHC Monthly Meetup on October 18

Join us for our next IHC virtual monthly meetup on Wednesday, October 18, at 10:00am. At this month’s meetup, we’ll be:

  • unveiling IHC’s 2024 legislative agenda
  • sharing advice on connecting with legislators before the session
  • learning more about the Anti-Hunger Advocacy Summit on Oct. 28

Anti-Hunger Advocacy Summit on October 28

Our friends at Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) and DMARC are teaming up to host an Anti-Hunger Advocacy Summit on Saturday, October 28 in Des Moines. More details and free registration is below! We hope to see you there!

Save the Children Action Network and DMARC believe every child deserves a strong start, and that their basic needs are met. That’s why we’re bringing advocates from across the state of Iowa for the 2023 Iowa State Advocacy Summit on Saturday, October 28, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.

What is the Advocacy Summit?
The Iowa State Advocacy Summit is an annual event that brings together advocates from across the state for a tailored experience that includes special speakers, expert panels, fun team building activities, and skills trainings. This year, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) and Des Moines Area Religious Council are teaming up to help anti-hunger and early learning advocates level-up their skills to be a strong presence in the community.

Why Advocacy?
Families across the state of Iowa are facing many challenges that prevent them from accessing the nutrition and early education experiences that kids need! Whether on the campaign trail speaking with presidential candidates, or holding elected officials accountable at the Iowa Capitol, children and families struggling everyday need your voice now more than ever!

Keynote Speaker

Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Erik Talkin is a recognized innovator and leader in America’s food bank network. His book, ‘Hunger into Health,’ with an introduction by Jeff Bridges, has been a rallying point for those who want to move from simple charity to building long-term food security. He is responsible for creating innovative national award-winning programs such as ‘Healthy School Pantry’ and ‘Kid’s Farmer’s Market’. He is a previous Board Member of the California Association of Food Banks and sat on the National Advisory Council of Feeding America.

Talkin’s book ‘Lulu and the Hunger Monster’ was written in response to the Food bank’s work with many families facing food insecurity, to help inspire kids to seek short term and long-term solutions. Two sequels to Lulu, “Jesse and the Snack Food Genie’ (looking at junk food) and ‘Frankie versus the Food Phantom’ (about the food system) have just been published. Find them at www.foodjusticebooksforkids.com.

Take Action to Protect Iowa’s Boards and Commissions

On Tuesday, August 29, the Boards and Commissions Review Committee, which was created in Gov. Reynold’s government re-alignment bill earlier this year, proposed its initial recommendations. The recommendations include eliminating or consolidating over 100 boards and commissions in the state of Iowa, including the Commission on Community Action Agencies, Board of Dietetics, Local Food and Farm Program Council, Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, Iowa Council on Homelessness, Child Care Advisory Committee, and numerous other concerning recommendations.



The committee will submit a final report to the Governor and state legislature by September 30. Last Tuesday it was also announced that there will be ONE public input hearing on the recommendations. The public input hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, September 6, at 12:00pm in Room 103 of the Iowa State Capitol. It is scheduled to last 2 hours, and speakers will be given a maximum of 2 minutes to share their comments. If you would like to sign up to speak, you must email BCRCcomments@iowa.gov – please include your name and any organization you are representing. And even if you’re not comfortable in speaking, please show up to show that Iowans are paying attention and are concerned with these recommendations! You can also email public comments to BCRCcomments@iowa.gov.

Keep in mind – these are just recommendations. No board or commission will be eliminated on September 30. Actual elimination would require legislative action. But it’s certainly something to be concerned about, as we are only four months away from the 2024 Iowa legislative session. Now is the time to reach out to your legislators to educate them on the importance of these boards and commissions.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of context on what went into these recommendations. The entire committee process was conducted in a way to skirt public oversight. According to reporting from Caleb McCullough in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “to create the recommendations, the six-member board was broken up into subcommittees of two members, allowing the subcommittees to meet privately without violating Iowa’s open meetings law. The recommendations were not made public before Tuesday’s meeting.”

Some of these recommendations to merge, consolidate, or eliminate boards and commissions may be making minor changes. Others would eliminate major programs. But one thing is clear – these recommendations are about consolidating power in the executive branch and limiting public oversight of state government.

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 iowahungercoalition@gmail.com.

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.

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  • 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 iowahungercoalition@gmail.com.
  • 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