Alleviate hunger in Iowa


By Barb Arland-Fye

The Iowa Hunger Coalition reports that more than 300,000 Iowans struggle with food insecurity, described as the “lack of access to enough nutritious food to lead a full and active life.” Think about the last time you were hungry and how it preoccupied your thoughts. Now, think about our hungry fellow Iowans and the impact of hunger on their ability to move forward.

Our faith calls us to embrace human life and dignity as a foundational principle. “Human dignity,” as the Iowa Catholic Conference states, “means those things that are necessary for a genuinely human life: food and water, clean air, shelter, clothing, education, health care, peace and security, a place to work.” Feed the hungry is listed as the first of the seven corporal works of mercy. Our commitment to Christ compels us to ensure that the hungry receive the sustenance they need to thrive.

For starters, let’s support two pieces of legislation now before the Iowa Legislature that address some of the needs of our hungry fellow Iowans. The first should be an easy ask: Passage of HF 345, which appropriates $1 million to the “Double Up Food Bucks” program. This program makes fresh fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets, grocery stores and other participating locations accessible to Iowans (individuals and families) who receive assistance through the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative administers the terrific program that matches SNAP/EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) dollars spent on fruits and vegetables up to $10 a day. That doubles the healthful benefit for individuals and families in need!


The second piece of legislation, SF 2039, will be a tough sell, requiring us to ramp up our advocacy efforts with our state legislators regarding the state’s participation in the federal government’s Summer EBT program. The program would provide $120 in nutrition benefits during the summer months to nearly 245,000 children (a total of $29.4 million) who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals, according to the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC). The ICC supports the bill, as well as the “Double Up Food Bucks” bill.

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), however, announced Dec. 22 that Iowa would not participate in the Summer EBT program. “With few restrictions on food purchases, the Summer EBT program does not have a strong nutrition focus,” HHS says. The state is also balking at having to pay into the program. “Participating states are required to cover half the administrative costs, which would cost an estimated $2.2 million in Iowa.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds argues that “Federal COVID-era cash benefit programs are not sustainable and don’t provide long-term solutions for the issues impacting children and families. An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.” She said the state has well-established programs “that leverage partnerships with community-based providers and schools who understand the needs of the families they serve.”

The ICC believes that the Summer EBT program assistance “could be particularly helpful in rural areas where there are fewer school meal sites. The extra support could help with consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains since healthy food is more expensive.”

While Iowa would be responsible for half of the program’s administrative costs (which would go down to $1.3 million subsequent years), the state’s budget surplus of $2 billion justifies the expense, the Iowa Hunger Coalition asserts. As the coalition states, “it is a small price to pay for feeding Iowa’s food insecure children.”

Besides advocating for our state’s kids, the Iowa Hunger Coalition established policy priorities for the 2024 state legislative session — all of them aimed at working toward elimination of food insecurity and building equitable food systems in Iowa. Among those worthy priorities:

  • Reducing barriers to apply and recertify for SNAP benefits, including repeal of the asset test.
  • Expanding SNAP eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Investing in the “Double Up Food Bucks” program.
  • Investing in the Local Food Purchasing Assistance program to incentivize local purchases by food banks, food pantries and other anti-hunger programs.
  • Diverting wholesome food from landfills to people facing hunger.
  • Making it easier to donate food in Iowa by reviewing the Farm to Food Bank Donation Tax Credit.

Advocacy begins with education. Go to the Iowa Hunger Coalition’s website ( to learn more about addressing hunger in Iowa. Read The Catholic Messenger regularly and visit the ICC website ( to keep abreast of hunger issues and legislation. Then, contact your state legislators and senators ( and ask them to support HF345 and SF 2039. Finally, pray for an end to hunger and for guidance on your role in that effort.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *