Did Lawmakers Forget About Food Insecurity This Session?

By Luke Elzinga | DMARC Policy and Advocacy Manager

The Iowa legislative session has drawn to a close. Unfortunately, we saw little action to address hunger and food insecurity from our state government, despite several bipartisan legislative proposals. This is especially concerning when food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger organizations are facing record-breaking need across the state.

Thankfully, with the help of our partners and advocates like you, we stopped harmful legislation, including efforts to create additional administrative hurdles to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for eligible non-citizens and further criminalizing homelessness.

We also successfully advocated for state funding to support local food purchases by schools, food banks, and emergency feeding organizations. The Choose Iowa Food Purchasing Pilot Project will provide $300,000 in matching funds for these institutions to purchase locally-grown fresh produce, meat and poultry, dairy, eggs, and honey.

DMARC CEO Matt Unger addresses the media at a rally held in January 2024 at the Iowa State Capitol in support of the Summer EBT program

This investment, along with the recently announced Summer Meal Program Expansion Grant, is unfortunately nowhere near what is needed to help hundreds of thousands of Iowans access the nutritious food they need to live and thrive. Not when our state is turning down $29 million in federal funding to help feed low-income kids through Summer EBT.

To add to our disappointment, Iowa’s legislature banned cities and counties from implementing basic income programs, such as UpLift: The Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot. DMARC has been supportive of UpLift since its inception, and lobbied against the ban.

While we may not have seen the progress we would have liked to this session, we remain inspired by the constant vigilance and determination of our advocates. Thank you for your continued advocacy!

The Iowa Hunger Coalition released a dashboard to showcase data related to free and reduced-price school meals, Summer EBT, and summer meal sites.

What’s Next?

Our attention now turns to the Washington D.C. and the Farm Bill, which is a key piece of legislation for SNAP and other federal nutrition programs. Iowa has an outsized level of influence on Farm Bill negotiations, given the fact that both of our Senators and two of four Representatives in the House serve on the agriculture committee. We know that when SNAP benefits are cut, or additional barriers to access the program are put in place, more people fall through the cracks and turn to the DMARC Food Pantry Network for assistance.

2024 is an election year, and it’s crucial that all candidates running for public office in our state know addressing food insecurity is an important issue for their constituents. If you get the chance, ask a candidate what they will do to address rising levels of hunger and food insecurity our community.

At DMARC, we work not just to meet the need, but also to shorten the line at food pantries. We know that truly ending hunger and food insecurity will take advocacy to address root causes and change systems. It’s not something that happens quickly or easily. We’re in this for the long haul, and knowing we can count on your support every step of the way inspires us to keep going.

To learn more about DMARC’s advocacy efforts, and how you can get involved, contact Policy and Advocacy Manager Luke Elzinga at lelzinga@dmarcunited.org.

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