Schools out: Summer begins with busiest day on record

Just a couple of days after the close of the 2024 school year, The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) Food Pantry Network assisted 2,080 unique individuals on Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2024 – setting a single-day record of people assisted.

This marks the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the DMARC Food Pantry Network that the number of unique individuals assisted in one day ever exceeded 2000 being driven in part by an increase in the number of minors being assisted. In June so far, 36.7 percent of everyone receiving food assistance has been a minor (0-17 years of age). The DMARC Food Pantry Network has now seen the 1st and 3rd busiest days in history in the first two open days of the month.

“The summer has always put additional burdens on families struggling with food insecurity, but this year will almost inevitably push households that are already struggling to their limits,” said DMARC CEO Matt Unger. “People are certainly being left behind when we are seeing this happen in June.”


Unique individuals assisted by the DMARC Food Pantry Network



In June, a new summer nutrition program called SUN Bucks (formerly known as Summer EBT) designed to bridge the summer hunger gap launched in 37 states nationwide.  This includes neighboring states, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, and Nebraska, but Iowa is choosing not to participate. An estimated 245,000 children in Iowa would’ve received $40 a month/child to spend at grocers that accept EBT cards.

“Imagine what an extra $40 a month for food could mean for your family? For those that are most in need right now this new program (SUN Bucks) would have been a lifeline,” said Unger. “Addressing the record levels of food insecurity we are seeing will take a concerted effort across religious communities, the business, government, and nonprofit sector. The nonprofit sector and community organizations aren’t capable or designed to do it alone. We are just one piece of the puzzle.”

This week also marked the start for many of the summer meal sites (AKA SUN Meals) in the metro. 38 school districts and host organizations were awarded a total of $900,000 to launch 61 new meal sites across the state this summer through a Summer Meal Sites Expansion Grant.  However, in the Des Moines Metro, it’s anticipated there will be a net loss of open congregate meal sites this summer compared to last year.

May was also the 2nd busiest month in the nearly 50-year history of the DMARC Food Pantry Network as the end of the school year introduces another meal gap for the thousands of households already struggling with the cost of living.

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