A year after the pandemic ends on paper, food pantry usage continues to grow faster than ever before

The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) Food Pantry Network assisted 1,725 unique individuals on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, setting a new single-day record of people assisted.

All-time single day records were recently set for the DMARC Food Pantry Network on Nov. 1, 2022 (1529) and Tuesday, Jan. 3 2023 (1615). However, the margin of increase on May 2 of over 100 individuals is unprecedented compared to previous records.

The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) Food Pantry Network also assisted 19,305 people in April 2023, a new record for the month, and an 35% increase over April 2022.

“These are uncharted waters for us,” said DMARC CEO Matt Unger. “What we feared would be  happening a year ago is now becoming a reality. Many of the people who are utilizing the DMARC Food Pantry Network right now have never done so before.”

These records highlight an ongoing trend as more Iowans seek out food assistance in place of other supports to combat inflation. A continued rise in traffic has persisted since April 2022, when many SNAP recipients in the state of Iowa saw their monthly food assistance benefits drop almost $200 a month. For the previous year since, the number of people utilizing a DMARC food pantry for the first time ever has maintained at record levels. April marks twelve consecutive months in a row where a monthly record is set for first time visitors to the DMARC Food Pantry Network.

“On top of the gigantic increases we are already seeing is the looming threat of the summertime when families can’t rely as frequently on food assistance through the school systems,” said Unger. “If Governor Reynolds signs into law sweeping changes to SNAP and other public assistance programs, it will only add insult to injury for the thousands of Iowans who are currently struggling to keep their head above water.”

Legislation passed the Iowa legislature in March that that will ultimately remove an estimated 2,800 Iowans from SNAP and other public assistance programs through the introduction of greater administrative hurdles. The bill, SF 494, is expected to become law with only remaining hurdle being the signature of the governor.

SNAP enrollment is currently at a 14-year low and the number of cases involving fraudulent enrollment remains at just a fraction of a percent.

“While we can’t predict the future, there is nothing on the horizon that will positively impact the numbers we are seeing,” said Unger. “This kind of need will take a community wide effort to combat. Every individual effort makes a difference – no matter how small.”

Greater Des Moines residents can make a difference coming up through the National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) annual Stamp Out Hunger® food drive on Saturday, May 13. That Saturday, leave out a donation of healthy, in-date, non-perishable food items and your letter carrier will collect it at your mailbox or shared mail receptacle.

In 2019, over 66,000 pounds of food were contributed through Stamp Out Hunger®. You can make an online contribution to DMARC that will be credited to the Stamp Out Hunger® food drive at dmarcunited.org/stamp-out-hunger.


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