United Group Insurance

Summer feeding programs for Iowa kids in low income households


July 10th, 2024 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – An Iowa Hunger Coalition analysis has found there are 21 more sites for Iowa kids who qualify for free or reduced priced meals at school to pick up free meals this summer. Governor Reynolds used 900-thousand dollars in federal pandemic relief money for grants that opened 61 summer meal sites, but 40 of those have replaced locations that had closed. Iowa Hunger Coalition chair Luke Elzinga says if Reynolds had accepted 29 million dollars in federal funds for the “Summer E-B-T” program, 245-thousand Iowa children would have been guaranteed better meals at home.

“Summer EBT is the first new, permanent federal childhood nutrition program we’ve had in two decades,” Elzinga says. “…This is such an impactful program to address childhood food insecurity during the summer in a really effective, efficient way.” The program provides an extra 120 dollars in June, July and August for each child in a low income household. Reynolds turned down the 29 million dollars for the program in December, citing the administrative cost of nine-dollars per eligible child — and Reynolds said the program also failed to address the obesity epidemic among children. Elzinga says pilot programs tested the Summer E-B-T concept for a decade before all states were allowed to participate.

“We know from the data that Summer EBT leads to increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy,” Elzinga says. “It does not increase consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.” The Iowa Hunger Coalition has started a petition drive to encourage Reynolds to sign Iowa kids up for the Summer E-B-T program next year. Elzinga says Iowa food pantries have been seeing an increase in usage during summer months. On July 2nd, the 14 food pantries Elzinga oversees for the Des Moines Area Religious Council set a single day usage record, assisting well over 21-hundred individuals.

The council has operated a food pantry network in the Des Moines metro for 50 years.