Faith Leaders, advocates inspire state to change course on food aid for school-age children

Facing public pressure from lawmakers, food insecurity advocates, and faith leaders, Iowa will plan to pursue federal food aid for school age children after initially stating they didn’t intend to apply.

The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) distributed a letter signed by over 100 faith leaders from across the state of Iowa encouraging Gov. Kim Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, and DHHS Director Kelly Garcia, to submit a proposal to the US. Department of Agriculture for summer P-EBT assistance for school-age children.

DMARC stands alongside the interfaith community in applauding HHS for taking action for the children of our state.

Iowa is just one of ten states that have not yet applied to this program which would 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). Iowa Health and Human Services must submit a proposal before July 14th in order to be eligible to receive funding.

Pandemic EBT or P-EBT was distributed in fall 2022 and supplied direct funds to be used at local grocers for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants and School Age Children. During the time payments were being distributed, the DMARC Food Pantry Network saw a decline in the percentage of individuals under the age of 18 utilizing a food pantry site.

The funding for 2023 is estimated to be $29 million dollars or $120 per child,  and school-age children who are eligible for free or reduced school lunch will be eligible to receive benefits.  Action by Congress in December 2022 created a permanent, nationwide Summer EBT program that will begin in 2024.


Read the full letter:


Re: Iowa Interfaith Leaders – feeding hungry children this Summer the right thing to do


Dear Governor Reynolds, Lt. Governor Gregg, and Director Garcia,

Feeding the poor is a universal value shared by all major faith traditions and all cultures – this is especially true when it comes to feeding children.

We, the undersigned Iowa leaders from all across the religious spectrum call on the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide summer nutrition benefits to children in our state through the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program.

At a time when our neighbors need our help now more than ever, we cannot lean on Private charities alone to address the issue of food insecurity. Since other pandemic assistance programs ended, feeding agencies across our state have been struggling to keep up with rising need. Food Pantries in every community are breaking records. Existing summer feeding programs alone are not able to reach every child in need this year.

Iowa needs to use every available resource to reduce food insecurity in our communities, especially for our youngest neighbors. According to Feeding America, 1 in 11 children in Iowa face hunger. Extensive research has shown, children facing household food insecurity will face a higher risk of developmental and behavioral problems, as well as additional health concerns. The P-EBT program benefits children directly, providing the nutrition assistance they need when school meals are not available.

Iowa is just one of 10 states that have not yet applied to this program which would 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). But time is running out, our state Health and Human Services Agency must act before July 14th.

The many diverse faith traditions and communities of belief in the state of Iowa have a moral imperative to create a future where everyone has the nutritious food they need to live and thrive. Every action to ensure the health and wellbeing of Iowa’s children is an investment in the future of our state and benefit to all people.

We call on our state leadership to take the necessary steps for our state to take part in this common-sense food assistance program. It is a tragedy to let children go hungry when help is available.  We call on our state in this challenging time to do the right thing—and feeding children is always the right thing to do.


Rev. Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, Trinity Las Américas

Rev. Ryan Arnold, St. John’s Lutheran, Des Moines

Rev. Susan Bantz, Grace Lutheran Church, Muscatine, IA

Rabbi Emily Barton, Tifereth Israel Synagogue

Amgad Beblawi, United Presbyteries of the Plains, Iowa

Dr. Brett Becker, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Amy Becker, Ashworth Church

Rev. Dr.. Beverlee Bell, United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr Mary L Bellon, Ph.D., Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation

Jarad Bernstein, Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines

Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, United Methodist Church

Kathryn Bly

Rev. Minna Bothwell, Capitol Hill Lutheran Church

Rev. Nicola Bowler, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

Rev. Steve Braudt, United Methodist Church Of Wilton

Beverly Butler

Kyle Carswell, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

Rev. Brian E. Carter, Aldersgate United Methodist Church

Pastor John Chaplin

Jan Christensen, Presbytery of Prospect Hill

Pastor Brent Clark, Ashworth Church & Ashworth Community Development Corporation

Pastor David B. Clark, Shenandoah, First UMC

Rev. Megan M. Clausen, Faith Lutheran Church, ELCA

Rev. Le Anne Clausen de Montes, Center for Faith and Peacemaking

Lewis Cox, Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation

Pastor Lisa Crow, Kalona & Wellman United Methodist Church

Debora Crowley, Interim Mission Center President, Community of Christ

Bishop Amy Current, Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA

Diane Daniels, SALUD-Multicultural Health Coalition of Storm Lake

Rev. Katie Z. Dawson, Immanuel United Methodist Church

Len Eberhart, United Methodist Church

Megan Eide, St. Paul Lutheran Church

Lori Ann Elbermawy, First United Methodist Church

David Endriss, First United Presbyterian Church of Winterset

Pastor Rachel Fredericks, Chariton Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Pastor Gray Fredericks, Chariton Christian Church

Rev. Frederick Gaddy, St.Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church

Pastor Wayne Gallipo, St. John Lutheran Church, Sioux City, IA

Pastor David Halaas, St. Mark Lutheran Church ELCA

Tom Chapman, Archdiocese of Dubuque

Rev. Jodi Hinrichs, Peace Lutheran Church, Adel

Rep. Lindsay James, State Representative

Heecheon Jeon, Iowa City First United Methodist Church

Rev. Patricia Johnson, St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Bishop Kevin T Jones, Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA

Lloyd Kaufman

Rev. David Koehler

Deborah Leksell, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Rev. Kathleen Lotz, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev Mary Madison, Children & Families First Inc.

Rev. Sharon Mahood, Retired priest, Episcopal Church

Rev. Eve Mahr, St. Andrews Episcopal Church

Rev. Peter W. Marty, St. Paul Lutheran Church

Susan W Marty, Madison Market

The Rev Jean McCarthy, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

Rev. Chuck Meyer, Augustana Lutheran Church, Sioux City

Rev. Jack L Mithelman, ELCA Clergy (retired)

The Rt. Rev. Betsey Monnot, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Rev. Andrea J. Myers, St. Stephen Lutheran Church (ELCA)

Sally Nadolsky, New Beginnings Christian Church

Rev. Karen Nichols Dungan, United Methodist Church

Rev. Del Olivier, First Congregational United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Timothy V. Olson, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Merry Orcutt, Trinity Las Americas United Methodist Church

Pastor Paul D. Ostrem, ELCA

Rev. Eric Pasanchin, Ankeny Presbyterian Church

Rev. Joshua Patty, Regional Minister & President,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest

Rev. Peter A. Pettit, PhD., St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport IA

Rev. Dr. Doug Pfeiffer

Rev. Bill Poland, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Catherine Quehl-Engel, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Pastor Laurie L. Riley, Janesville and Hudson United Methodist Caurches

Jodi Rushing

Rev. Ryan M. Russell, United Methodist Church

Monique Scarlett, Unity in The Community

Rev. Mel Schlachter, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Rev. Mark Schlenker, ELCA

Rev. Tania Schramm, Grace Lutheran Church – Adel

Laura Sherlock

Pastor Susan Simmons, Shell Rock Valley Parish

Baljit Singh Virdi, Iowa Sikh Association

Anthony Smith, Johnson County Interfaith Coalition

Nicole Smith, Ames First United Methodist Church

Clare Smith-Larson, Capitol Hill Christian Church

Nermin Spahic, Islamic & Cultural Center Bosniak

Rev. Travis Stanley, Norwalk Christian Church

Rev. Jane Stewart, New Song Episcopal Church, Coralville, IA

Rev. Peter Strobel, Plymouth Congregational Church United Church of Christ

Jean Swenson, Iowa MFSA, co-chair

Pastor Rachel Thorson Mithelman

Rev. Douglas Tiffany, Hospice Chaplain/Lutheran Pastor

John Tyson, Des Moines Mennonite Church

Rev. Trevor Vaughn, Immanuel United Methodist Church

Rev. Katy Warren, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport

Diane Wasson Eberhart, Retired United Methodist Church Clergy

Dana welser, Madison market

Kit J. Whan, Madison Market/ St Paul

Pastor Alaire Willits, United Methodist Church

Rev. Kathleen Wohlers, ELCA (retired)

Rev. Dr. Jared Wortman, Plymouth Congregational Church

Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula, Diocese of Davenport

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