Iowa anti-hunger groups join 1,400+ organizations across the nation in calling to protect and strengthen SNAP

The national coalition letter urges Congress to reject $30 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years and return to a bipartisan Farm Bill 

18 Iowa-based organizations are part of a statewide and national effort urging Congress to prioritize protecting and strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the upcoming Farm Bill and any other legislative vehicles moving forward.

18 Iowa-based groups have joined more than 1,400 national, state, and local organizations representing communities from across the country, in signing a letter urging Congress to ensure that benefit adequacy, equitable access, and program administration, remain core tenets of SNAP. 

Iowa groups that signed on to the letter include:

  • Common Good Iowa
  • Coralville Community Food Pantry
  • Corridor Community Action Network
  • Des Moines Area Religious Council
  • Des Moines Education Association
  • Disability Rights Iowa
  • Iowa ACEs 360
  • Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers  
  • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
  • Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Iowa Community Action Association
  • Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • Iowa Food Bank Association
  • Iowa Hunger Coalition
  • Iowa State Education Association
  • Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity
  • RESULTS Iowa
  • Southeast Linn Community Center

“More must be done to ensure that SNAP benefits reach all those in need in Iowa so they have access to the nutrition they need to thrive,” said Luke Elzinga, board chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition and policy and advocacy manager at the DMARC Food Pantry Network. “When we have food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations assisting record-breaking numbers of people across the state, SNAP enrollment should not be at a 16-year low in Iowa.”

To safeguard SNAP, efforts to create a cost-neutral Thrifty Food Plan, which SNAP benefits are based on, must be rejected. This includes opposing any proposed cuts, such as restricting future Thrifty Food Plan benefit adjustments, which could result in nearly $30 billion in cuts over 10 years. Such a cost-neutral plan would also negatively impact Summer EBT, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program.

RELATED: House Farm Bill Proposal Threatens SNAP Purchasing Power

“Poverty is extremely complex, touching every aspect of life, from food security to health outcomes,” said Mandi Remington, Director of Corridor Community Action Network. “The level of need among Iowans is rising, and current resources are not adequate for families struggling to make ends meet. A strong, bipartisan Farm Bill is crucial to protect and strengthen SNAP, so that all families can access the nutrition they need to thrive.”

Research underscores the economic and health benefits of SNAP. Every dollar invested in SNAP generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity during an economic downturn and supports local economies. In doing so, SNAP improves health outcomes, which results in reducing Medicaid costs associated with food insecurity. 

“Every educator knows that when students are hungry, it is difficult to concentrate on lessons and retain information. Access to healthy, nutritious food without worrying about where their next meal comes from helps students focus on learning in school. It significantly enhances their learning capabilities, providing the best possible path to a positive school experience,” said Coy Marquardt, Executive Director of the Iowa State Education Association.

Despite its strengths, SNAP benefits remain modest, averaging only $5.56 per person per day in Iowa. At a time when living expenses are on the rise, it is imperative that Congress utilizes the power of the U.S. government to strengthen SNAP through several ways, including by improving benefit adequacy, permitting purchase of hot foods, simplifying the eligibility requirements, and protecting participants from benefit theft.

“Anti-hunger advocates in Iowa stand ready to oppose any legislation that would undermine SNAP’s proven effectiveness in helping 265,000 people in Iowa afford to put food on the table,” said Elzinga. “History has repeatedly shown that the only viable path to passing a Farm Bill is a strong bipartisan effort that involves all stakeholders engaged at the table.”

IHC Launches Renewed Petition to Urge Iowa’s Participation in Summer EBT in 2025

The Iowa Hunger Coalition (IHC) is launching an online petition to urge Gov. Kim Reynolds to take steps to ensure Iowa participates in Summer EBT in 2025. IHC has set a goal of gathering 2,500 signatures by Friday, August 2. Iowans can sign the petition by visiting iowahungercoalition.org/summer-ebt.


“It’s past time for Gov. Reynolds to put national partisan politics aside and do what’s right for Iowa,” said Luke Elzinga, IHC board chair and policy and advocacy manager at the DMARC Food Pantry Network. “We are calling on all Iowans to take action and hold our state government accountable. Nobody should be willing to accept another summer where hundreds of thousands of low-income kids in our state miss out on Summer EBT.”

Summer EBT, also known as SUN Bucks, is the first new federal childhood nutrition program in two decades, and was created by a bipartisan act of Congress in December 2022. Iowa notably declined to participate in Summer EBT in 2023, a decision strongly opposed by the Iowa Hunger Coalition. Iowa is one of 13 states that chose not to participate in Summer EBT in 2023.

The program would provide $120 in nutrition benefits during the summer to 245,000 children in Iowa who qualify for free and reduced price school meals. Summer EBT is evidence-based policy, and has been shown to reduce childhood food insecurity while increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy.

“With household budgets stretched thin, families are facing incredibly difficult decisions to put food on the table this summer,” said Sheila Hansen, IHC board member and senior policy advocate and government relations manager at Common Good Iowa. “Meanwhile, the state of Iowa is sitting on a two-billion dollar surplus. Summer EBT is an incredibly effective use of state funds that would make a profound impact in the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Iowans.”

Food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations across the state of Iowa continue to face record-breaking numbers of people turning to them for assistance. Advocates trace the beginning of this trend back to April 2022, when Emergency Allotments for SNAP ended, drastically reducing benefit amounts for Iowans enrolled in the program.

“On top of the sustained increases we’d already been seeing at food banks and pantries over the past two years, this summer has been absolutely relentless, no matter where you are in the state,” said Nicole McAlexander, executive director of Southeast Linn Community Center and vice chair of IHC’s board. “Similar to individuals, organizations are facing difficult financial decisions, and staff and volunteers are being pushed to the limit to make sure the need is met.”

The Iowa Hunger Coalition is also coordinating an organizational sign-on letter, and is separately urging nonprofit organizations, faith communities, businesses, clubs, and other civic groups to contact the Governor’s office, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, and Iowa Department of Education in support of Summer EBT.

The petition specifically calls on Gov. Kim Reynolds to direct the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to work together to submit an interim Plan of Operation and Management (iPOM) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) by August 15, 2024. Once USDA FNS has approved a state’s iPOM, state agencies can begin drawing down federal matching funds for program implementation and administration.

“We are calling on Iowa to take action to ensure Iowa participates in Summer EBT in 2025, and every year following,” said Elzinga. “Regardless of whether or not Iowa submits an interim Plan of Operation and Management to USDA by the August 15 deadline or not, we will keep fighting until Iowa participates in Summer EBT.”

IHC Applauds Iowa HHS’ Continued Efforts to Address SNAP Payment Error Rate

The Iowa Hunger Coalition applauds ongoing efforts by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reduce the payment error rate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Iowa.

Data released last week from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) showed Iowa’s payment error rate (PER) for SNAP in FY 2023 was 5.19%, less than half the national average of 11.68%, and a marked improvement from Iowa’s payment error rate of 8.60% in FY 2022. Iowa now ranks as having the 6th lowest SNAP payment error rate of any state or territory in the nation, tied with Wyoming.

“We commend the Department of Health and Human Services and Director Kelly Garcia for their sustained efforts to reduce payment errors for SNAP in Iowa,” said IHC board chair Luke Elzinga. “Ensuring accuracy in benefit payments is vital to protecting the public trust of SNAP.”

The payment error rate measures the accuracy of Iowa HHS’ eligibility and benefit determinations for SNAP. Payment errors include both underpayments and overpayments. They are the result of inadvertent errors made on the part of a SNAP applicant or state agency. The payment error rate does not represent program fraud.

If a household has been found to have received an overpayment of benefits, even if the source of the error was the agency, HHS is required to work toward recovering excess benefits from households, whether that be through reducing future benefit payments or initiating collection actions through the Department of Inspections, Appeals, and Licensing (DIAL). Households who are found to have received an underpayment in benefits may be able to recoup them through a process to restore lost benefits with Iowa HHS.

Background on Iowa’s SNAP Payment Error Rate

In 2019, the state of Iowa was issued a $1.8 million fine from USDA FNS for having a payment error rate of 10.0% – which was 3.2% higher than the national average in FY 2018 (6.8%).

Iowa chose to designate 50% of the liability amount toward new investments in approved activities to improve SNAP administration through its Business Process Redesign (BPR) and designated the remaining 50% of the liability amount as at risk for repayment if a liability amount for an excessive payment error rate was established for FY 2019. This did occur, and the state paid the liability, when the payment error rate for Iowa in FY 2019 increased to 12.5%—5.1 percentage points higher than the national average that year (7.4%).

Since then, Iowa has shown improvements in reducing its payment error rate. While USDA does not have official payment error rate data for FY 2020 and FY 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2022 legislative presentation by HHS, the payment error rate for SNAP in Iowa fell to 9.4% in FY 2020 and 6.6% in FY 2021.

“In five short years, Iowa reversed its trajectory on payment error rates and continues to make advances while other states are falling further behind,” said Elzinga. “Iowa’s SNAP payment error rate is now well below the national average, and that is a testament to the work of Director Garcia and the entire team at HHS.”

Muddying the Waters: Misinformation About the Payment Error Rate

When advantageous to their political goals, the payment error rate has been used by politicians and interest groups, namely the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) and their lobbying arm, Opportunity Solutions Project (OSP), to negatively target SNAP.

OSP has been active in Iowa since 2017, but following the 2019 fine from USDA for an excessive payment error rate, Representatives and Senators of the Iowa Legislature used the fine as justification for increased administrative hurdles for SNAP and other public assistance programs, focusing greater attention on model legislation drafted by FGA/OSP.  The payment error rate was explicitly used as justification for Senate File 494, which passed Iowa’s legislature in 2023 and was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds.

“We know—we know because we’ve been fined by the federal government—we know that fraud and abuse exist within our system…welfare reform is a priority because we have to root out that fraud and abuse.”

Senate President Amy Sinclair, Iowa Press, January 27, 2023

It bears repeating: the payment error rate for SNAP measures the accuracy of Iowa HHS’ eligibility and benefit determinations for SNAP. Payment errors include both underpayments and overpayments. They are the result of inadvertent errors made on the part of a SNAP applicant or state agency. The payment error rate does not represent program fraud.

The Iowa Hunger Coalition lobbied heavily against the passage of SF 494 and called on Gov. Reynolds to veto the legislation. SF 494 has a legislated implementation deadline of July 1, 2025.

Iowa’s federal delegation has also focused attention on SNAP’s payment error rate and used it as justification to negatively target SNAP.

Last September, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the “Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act,” which would require states to cover the cost of overpayments and remove any tolerance threshold when calculating the SNAP payment error rate, making even a single cent of overpayment or underpayment of benefits count toward the payment error rate. In November, Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-IA04) introduced companion legislation to Sen. Ernst’s bill in the House. Press releases announcing both bills included praise from FGA’s president and CEO and reinforced the falsehood that payment errors represent program fraud.

“FGA and OSP have pushed a false narrative equating the payment error rate with fraud, and have unfortunately been successful in doing so, especially in Iowa,” said Elzinga. “But make no mistake: Iowa’s success in reducing its payment error rate pre-dates legislation like SF 494, which has yet to be implemented.”

Areas for Improvement Still Exist

While Iowa’s payment error rate continues to show improvement, other metrics measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of SNAP don’t look as positive for the state, including Iowa’s application processing timeliness (APT).

Iowa’s APT in FY 2022 was 78.34%, meaning that only 78% of SNAP applications in Iowa were processed within a timely manner—30 days for the average applicant, or 7 days for applicants who qualify for expedited service. This was Iowa’s lowest APT since it started being recorded in 2011, and fell well below USDA’s acceptable rate of 95%. 

Perhaps even more concerning is a metric shared in another new report from USDA FNS, Characteristics of SNAP Households – FY22, which found that 44% of entrant SNAP households in Iowa in FY 2022 who qualified for expedited service did not receive it.

Because of its poor performance, Iowa is currently on a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) with USDA FNS to get its application processing timeliness in an acceptable range. USDA FNS data for application processing timeliness has not yet been released for FY 2023.

Additionally, Iowa’s Program Access Index (PAI) for SNAP is currently the lowest it has ranked since 2008, and has ranked below the national average since 2019. Iowa’s SNAP PAI continues to decline, indicating that the program is becoming less and less accessible to Iowans who are eligible for the program.

And while Iowa’s SNAP Case and Procedural Error Rate (CAPER) is below the national average, it is still a concerning number: 33.2% in FY 2023. This means that in one-third of cases where a household’s SNAP benefits were denied, terminated, or suspended one or more of the following was true:

  • The decision was inaccurate; 
  • The notice provided to the household was inaccurate, unclear, insufficient;
  • The notice provided to the household was not timely; and/or  
  • The procedures followed related to these decisions were inaccurate or not timely.

Iowa has made great strides to improve its payment error rate for SNAP, but there are still improvements to be made: not only with continuing to keep the payment error rate down, but also to improve application processing timeliness, reduce the case and procedural error rate in the state, and improve access to the program.

“The Iowa Hunger Coalition calls on our elected officials to take action to ensure Iowans have ready access to the benefits for which they are eligible,” said Elzinga. “When food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations are assisting record-breaking numbers of Iowans, SNAP enrollment should not be at a 16-year low in the state. Solely focusing greater scrutiny on caseworkers and applicants to reduce payment errors should not come at the cost of application processing timeliness or reduced access to SNAP benefits.”

A Letter from the Board Chair

Hi everyone! It’s me, Luke Elzinga, board chair of the Iowa Hunger Coalition.

I hope you’re having a great start to your summer! It’s a bittersweet time for Iowa, as other states are getting ready to issue their first month of benefits through Summer EBT, which was recently rebranded as SUN Bucks.

Families across the state will be grappling with additional food costs as children are out of school, and while a new grant program from the state will expand summer meal sites, significant barriers to access summer meal sites will persist for many Iowans.

But the reason I wanted to reach out to you today to thank you was to thank you for your support this past legislative session. Your calls, emails, and personal outreach to legislators did not go unnoticed!

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

  • We successfully lobbied for the creation of the Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Project, which will provide $300,000 in matching funds for local food purchases by schools, food banks, and emergency feeding organizations.

  • We worked with members of both parties to introduce legislation to invest in Double Up Food Bucks, expand free school meals, and support grocery stores located in food deserts. Unfortunately, none of these bipartisan policies advanced this session.

  • We successfully pushed back against harmful legislation that would have imposed unnecessary barriers to access public assistance for eligible non-citizens and further criminalized homelessness.

We are so appreciative of your relentless advocacy. You are the fuel that keeps us going!

IHC can only do what we do thanks to the support of our network of advocates. I want to give a special shout-out to our dues-paying members, both individuals and organizations. The financial support provided by our membership allows us to keep doing this important work.

If you are not already a dues-paying member of the Iowa Hunger Coalition, I’m asking you today to please consider becoming one. While we do have suggested contributions, we do not want cost to be a barrier that prevents any individual or organization from joining the coalition.


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.

At the Iowa Hunger Coalition, we’re not afraid to be bold in our advocacy. Iowa is facing a food insecurity crisis, and that requires us to challenge persistent narratives and demand more from our elected officials. If you haven’t already seen, we are excited to unveil our new mission and guiding principles. I hope they resonate with you as much as they’ve resonated with our board of directors and membership.

Mission:

Working to end hunger in Iowa through education, advocacy, and policy change rooted in justice.

Guiding Principles:

  • Hunger is a policy choice.
  • Nutritious food is a human right.
  • Ending hunger requires solidarity, not just charity.

Finally, I want to invite you to attend IHC’s annual meeting on Tuesday, June 25, from 1:00-3:00pm. Like last year, we’ll be meeting at the DMARC Food Pantry Network, 100 Army Post Road, Des Moines, Iowa – with a virtual option to attend as well. Lunch will be served starting at 12:00pm for in-person attendees.


Our network of advocates never fails to impress me. We constantly punch above our weight. We take stances and push for policies other organizations shy away from. We challenge the status quo. We lead with empathy, and acknowledge we always have room to improve. And perhaps most important of all: we support, encourage, and inspire each other.

I can’t say it enough: thank you for all you do. I, along with the entire IHC board of directors, am so appreciative of your support.

And don’t forget—I’m always just an email away. Please reach out to me at iowahungercoalition@gmail.com if you ever want to chat.

I hope we’re able to connect soon,

Luke Elzinga
Board Chair, Iowa Hunger Coalition

Digging into the Summer Meal Program Expansion Grant Award Announcement

Last Thursday, May 23, the state of Iowa announced the grant awardees for the Summer Meal Program Expansion Grant through the Iowa Department of Education. 38 school districts and host organizations were awarded a total of $900,000 to launch 61 new meal sites across the state this summer. In 2023, the average daily attendance at summer meal sites in Iowa was 21,557, reaching less than 10% of students who qualified for free and reduced price school meals.

A full list of summer meal sites for 2024 in Iowa is not yet available, but if all 512 sites from 2023 return in addition to the 61 grant award sites, the grant program will:

  • Expand the number of summer meal sites in Iowa by 11%

  • Establish summer meal sites at 12 school districts that did not host a site in 2023

  • Support purchases of locally-grown foods

The Iowa Hunger Coalition commends the Iowa Department of Education for allocating $900,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to expand meal sites this summer. About one-third of grant funding was directed to areas that did not previously have a summer meal site in 2023. This investment will certainly have a positive impact for thousands of low-income children in Iowa who could not previously access summer meals.

However, there are still numerous barriers that exist in accessing summer meal sites, even when they are closer in proximity. Most sites require students to eat the meal on-site, though some rural areas are permitted to operate “grab and go” meals. If parents or caregivers are present, in most cases they are not provided a meal, or must pay for it themselves. Children who are staying at home alone may not be able to travel to meal sites, even if they are nearby.

Summer meal sites can vary greatly in their accessibility. While most sites are “open,” meaning any child can access a free meal on a first-come, first-served basis, some sites operate as “closed enrolled” or “camp,” meaning they are only available to students enrolled in a program or camp. In 2023, 398 of 512 summer meal sites (78%) operated as “open.”

Hours and days of operation can vary from site to site as well. Many sites operate Monday-Friday, but others are only available one or two days a week. Some serve breakfast and lunch, while others only serve one meal, or in some cases, just an afternoon snack. Meal sites may only serve food within a short window of time that not all children are able to attend. Many sites operate June through August, but others are only available for a single month during the summer.

Even with the expansion grant, 176 of 327 public school districts in Iowa (54%) are not expected to have a summer meal site available in 2024. Collectively, these school districts are home to 45,843 students who qualify for free or reduced price school meals—and will have no access to school meals this summer. Had the state of Iowa participated in Summer EBT, these students would have received a total of $5.5 million in nutrition benefits.

Last December, the state of Iowa announced it would not be participating in Summer EBT, and would instead be exploring options to expand existing programs. The Summer Meal Program Expansion Grant Program was subsequently announced on April 10, 2024.

Summer EBT, also now known as SUN Bucks, is a federal childhood nutrition program that provides $40 in monthly nutrition benefits during the summer to children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals. The program is intended to complement, not replace, other USDA child nutrition programs like the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option.

245,000 children in Iowa would have benefitted from Summer EBT, starting in just a few days, had the state chosen to participate in the program. $29 million in benefit amounts would have supported children and families who struggle to put food on the table during the summer. It would have cost the state about $9 per child to provide them with $120 in nutrition benefits.

The USDA has conducted research on Summer EBT going back to 2011, and found evidence that providing additional nutrition benefits to kids during the summer reduces childhood food insecurity and increases consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy (with no increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages).

In most cases, the amount of Summer EBT benefits that students would have received greatly surpasses the amount of funding granted to organizations to expand summer meal sites. In two instances, the grant award to expand summer meal sites was larger than the amount of money that would have been allocated to students through Summer EBT.

  • Central Community School District was awarded $51,557 to open four summer meal sites this summer—the single largest grant award both in funding amount and number of new sites. Central Community School District did not operate any summer meal sites in 2023. There are 196 students (43% of student body) who receive free or reduced price school meals in the district, and Summer EBT would have provided a total of $23,520 in nutrition benefits to those 196 students.

  • Colo-NESCO Community School District was awarded $39,918 to open three summer meal sites this summer. The district operated one summer meal site in 2023. There are 154 students (45% of student body) who receive free or reduced price school meals in the district, and Summer EBT would have provided a total of $18,480 in nutrition benefits to those 154 students.

The Iowa Hunger Coalition anxiously awaits a complete list of 2024 summer meal sites, which will enable a more detailed analysis of the impact of the new grant program and summer meal access to be conducted.

More Details on New Summer Meal Sites and Grant Awardees

The grant awards went to 38 sponsor organizations, including:

  • 35 school districts, 12 of which (34%) did not host a summer site in 2023

  • One private school district who did not host a site in 2023, Saint Albert Catholic School/Council Bluffs Area Catholic Education System

  • Two nonprofit organizations, including one that did not host a site in 2023, Story Medical Center, which is hosting three sites located within Collins-Maxwell Community School District
    • In 2023, Collins-Maxwell Community School District hosted a site at Collins-Maxwell Elementary School—Story Medical Center received grant funding to operate a site there in 2024

  • In total, 14 of the 38 grantees did not host a site in 2023 (37%)

The grants will support 61 new summer meal sites, including:

  • 11 of 12 awarded school districts who did not operate a summer meal site in 2023 were each granted $16,639 to open a single (1) summer site in 2024

    • In total, 3,817 (37% of student body) students of these districts qualify for free or reduced price school meals

    • The private school district is also launching a single site with a $16,639 grant

  • The other new district, Central Community School District, received a grant of $51,557 to launch four sites in Summer 2024 – the most sites of any grant awarded and largest award amount.

    • 196 students (43% of student body) qualify for free or reduced price school meals

    • It would have only cost $23,520 to provide Summer EBT for these students, less than half the cost of this grant program

  • Among the 23 school districts that DID operate summer meal sites in 2023:

    • 11 were each granted $16,639 to open an additional one (1) site in 2024:
      • Five of these 11 districts operated one site in 2023
      • Two of these 11 districts (Riceville and Spencer) operated two sites in 2023
      • Two of these 11 districts (Vinton-Shellsburg and Maple Valley-Anthon Oto) operated four sites in 2023
      • Iowa City operated 16 sites in 2023
      • Waterloo operated 19 sites in 2023

    • Six were each granted $28,279 to open an additional two (2) sites in 2024:
      • Des Moines Independent School District, which operated 46 sites in 2023 
      • Estherville Lincoln Community School District, which operated one site
      • Oskaloosa Community School District, which operated five sites
      • Riverside Community School District, which operated one site
      • Shenandoah Community School District, which operated five sites
      • Waukee Community School District, which operated five sites
  • Six were each granted $39,918 to open an additional three (3) sites in 2024:
    • Cedar Rapids Community School District, which operated 27 sites in 2023 
    • Colo-NESCO Community School District, which operated one site
    • Council Bluffs Community School District, which operated 15 sites
    • Davenport Community School District, which operated 21 sites
    • Hampton Dumont Community School District, which operated one site
    • Ottumwa Community School District, which operated six sites

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!

House Farm Bill Proposal Threatens SNAP Purchasing Power

Last week, the lull of activity surrounding the Farm Bill burst back to life with the release of two competing frameworks. U.S. House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) released a title-by-title overview of the Farm Bill, and U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a summary framework of the Farm Bill in the Senate: The Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act.

The Farm Bill is a massive piece of legislation touching on a wide variety of programs and policies, and the nutrition title (Title IV) covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and certain other federal nutrition programs. Congress usually passes a Farm Bill every five years, but last year passed a one-year extension through September 30, 2024.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress directed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to modernize and reformulate the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). The Thrifty Food Plan is the lowest-cost of four food plans developed by USDA FNS, and is used to calculate benefit amounts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In October 2021, the modernized Thrifty Food Plan was implemented, leading to the first permanent increase to SNAP purchasing power in nearly 50 years.

Now, a provision included in the House Farm Bill framework would restrict future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan that are currently set to occur every five years (outside of annual cost of living adjustments). And while this proposal wouldn’t undo benefit gains already realized from the TFP modernization as some have proposed (including Iowa’s own Senator Chuck Grassley), it would prevent future scheduled increases.

Chairman Thompson’s proposal to freeze future Thrifty Food Plan updates would cut SNAP by $30 billion over the period of 2027-2033, including an estimated cut of $170 million in SNAP benefits for Iowans. Because the Thrifty Food Plan is used in funding formulas for other nutrition programs, it would also lead to cuts to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Summer EBT, and Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program block grant.

Iowans need a Thrifty Food Plan that continues to stay up to date with the times.

  • From October 2021 to March 2024, the TFP modernization led to over $306 million in additional SNAP benefits for Iowans struggling with hunger and food insecurity.

  • Without the TFP modernization, Iowa households would be receiving $67 less in SNAP benefits on average every month, and individuals would receive $1.11 less every day.

  • Based on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, freezing TFP updates (outside of inflation adjustments) would cut $170 million in SNAP benefits to Iowans over fiscal years 2027-2033, and would also deal cuts to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

  • Iowans need a Thrifty Food Plan that continues to stay up to date with the times—not preventing future benefit increases and leaving people struggling to put food on the table.


Tell your member of Congress: keep SNAP benefits up to date—don’t restrict Thrifty Food Plan updates!

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks
Iowa's 1st Congressional District
DC Office: (202) 225-6576
Contact via email

Rep. Ashley Hinson
Iowa's 2nd Congressional District
DC Office: (202) 225-2911
Contact via email

Rep. Zach Nunn
Iowa's 3rd Congressional District
DC Office: (202) 225-5476
Contact via email

Rep. Randy Feenstra
Iowa's 4th Congressional District
DC Office: (202) 225-4426
Contact via email

Legislative Advocacy Update: 2nd Funnel

Last Friday, March 15, marked the 2nd funnel in the Iowa State Legislature – a self-imposed deadline to narrow the number of bills that are still up for consideration this session. We saw one bad bill advance past the 2nd funnel, and another get killed (though the majority party always has mechanisms to revive legislation). Appropriation bills do not need to meet the funnel deadline. So, here’s where things stand:

HF 2319 – Basic Income Ban


House File 2319, a bill that would ban cities and counties from implementing basic income programs, has passed the House, passed out of Senate State Government Committee, and is now eligible for floor debate in the Senate. This bill specifically targets UpLift: The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot, which is currently operating in three central Iowa counties, and is the only basic income pilot operating in the state of Iowa.

On Monday, March 4, the Iowa House passed HF 2319 in a 55-43 vote. Seven House Republicans (Jane Bloomingdale, Austin Harris, Chad Ingels, Brian Lohse, Brent Siegrist, Hans Wilz, and David Young) joined all House Democrats in voting no.

HF 2319 was referred to the Senate, where it was placed in the State Government Committee. A subcommittee of Sen. Scott Webster, Sen. Mike Bousselot, and Sen. Tony Bisignano was held on Tuesday, March 12. Despite a passionate appeal to kill the bill by Sen. Bisignano, HF 2319 advanced out of subcommittee in a 2-1 party line vote. It then advanced out of the full Senate State Government Committee the next day, again on a party-line vote.

While food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations are facing record-breaking need, instead of taking action to address food insecurity, our state legislature is more interested in preventing cities and counties from exploring innovative solutions to addressing poverty and economic mobility.

Please contact your Senator today and urge them to vote NO on HF 2319.

HF 2608 – Non-citizens and Public Assistance


HF 2608 failed to pass out of the Senate Judiciary Committee before the 2nd funnel deadline. Division I of this bill would add a redundant process for verifying citizenship status for non-citizens applying for public assistance, and Division II would add a vague “smuggling” provision to Iowa criminal code.

Advocates spoke out loud and clear in opposition during the Senate subcommittee meeting, with only one person speaking in favor of the bill. Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice has been leading the resistance to HF 2608 and other anti-immigrant bills this session. Advocates from the Iowa Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities, and the Catholic Worker House were also vocal critics – stressing that the smuggling provision could be used to target individuals and organizations who see welcoming immigrants as part of their religious calling.

Thankfully, HF 2608 is now considered “dead,” though the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steven Holt, has indicated he may attempt to add the smuggling provision as an amendment to another bill. Stay tuned, and learn more about HF 2608.

Appropriations Bills


Bills that deal with spending, or appropriations, are considered “funnel-proof” and do not have to adhere to the funnel deadlines. We have been following a number of appropriations bills, but have yet to see meaningful movement on them:

  • HF 2022 – Double Up Food Bucks. This bill would appropriate $1 million in state funds toward the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program, which is administered by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. It would also be eligible for a federal match through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). DUFB helps SNAP benefits go further when purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. Double Up Food Bucks is triple win for Iowa!

  • HF 2599 – Grocer Reinvestment Fund. This bill would create a grocer reinvestment program, a local produce processing grant program, and a $2 million annual fund for both programs. HF 2599 has been spearheaded by the Center for Rural Affairs and Rep. Brian Lohse. We are pleased to see provisions in the bill that would help direct funds to grocery stores in low and moderate income areas that redeem SNAP and WIC benefits.

  • Local Food Purchasing Assistance Program (LFPA) and Local Food for Schools (LFS). We continue to advocate for state-level funding to continue the work of the LFPA and LFS programs. While there is not an active bill, we are still pursuing ways to find a home for an appropriation to help schools, early childhood centers, senior centers, food banks, food pantries, and other feeding organizations purchase more locally-grown food.

Please contact Rep. Gary Mohr, Chair of House Appropriations, about these priorities!

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.