Iowa Hunger Coalition Urges Gov. Reynolds to Join Summer EBT Program Next Year
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Iowa Hunger Coalition Urges Gov. Reynolds to Join Summer EBT Program Next Year

In response to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to withdraw the state from a federal program that provides food for underprivileged children, food banks in central Iowa have launched a petition to encourage the state to re-enter the program the following year.

Missy Reams, pantry manager of the Bidwell Pantry in Des Moines stated that, “I’ve started to call myself the ‘Debbie Downer’ because there’s just not a lot of positive things to say right now.”

“Sometimes we close our doors two to three times a day and say, ‘We’re done until we can catch up,’ because we just can’t stay caught up with the number of people coming in,” she stated.

Reynolds made the decision not to take part in the federal Summer EBT program this year, which would have provided families with $40 per child each month for food purchases. She cited the lack of nutrition promotion in the Summer EBT program as one of her reasons for not signing up.

Reams notes that roughly 40% of the clients they deal with are under the age of 17, and she observes the consequences of Reynolds’ choice.

“It’s definitely been a difference for the families — has really made things difficult for them; especially, you know, with the kids home, and the parents are trying to figure out how to keep the kids’ tummies full,” she stated.

Luke Elzinga, the Iowa Hunger Coalition‘s chair, counters that research indicates participants in the program make healthier food purchases.

“Something’s got to give,” he stated. “We’re just asking more and more from our staff and volunteers and it feels like we’re reaching a breaking point.”

According to Elzinga, a petition has been started to persuade Reynolds to take part the next year.

Prior to the deadline of August 15th for states to submit plans to the USDA, the coalition intends to send the petition to the governor’s office.

“The state only has to pay $2.2 million for that share of admin cost; but we would see $29 million coming in to the state, and I just cannot think of any program that has a similar return on investment for the state,” Elzinga stated.

Rather than participate in the broader federal program, Reynolds announced competitive funds totaling $900,000 to establish 21 new summer feeding stations.

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Although Elzinga acknowledges that the feeding stations are a component of the solution, hundreds of thousands more people would gain from taking part in Summer EBT.

Elzinga stated, “Spending $900,000 to basically open… add, you know, 20 new meal sites — I think we could do a whole lot more. I think we could do a whole lot more. You know, if the state put in $2.2 million, that would provide $120 in nutritional benefits to 245,000 low-income kids across the state. There’s really no comparison to be made.”

According to Reams, Iowans who volunteer their time could lessen the strain on their local food pantries, as pantries around the state are experiencing a volunteer shortage.

With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.