Hunger in the heartland: Iowans struggle with food insecurity

Jessica Chrystal shines a light on a widespread problem in a state that is supposed to be the bread basket of the world. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I spent part of last week attending events at the World Food Prize in Des Moines. When we think of hunger, we think of homeless people on benches in California. The Salvation Army bell ringer standing outside of Target during Christmas, or the glowing images from our tvs of starving children to donate to various charities overseas.

Rarely do we think of our neighbor next door.

Hunger is everywhere. She’s part of the fabric of every map dot town and big city across Iowa.

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State, federal legislation will impact Iowans in need

Becci Reedus, executive director of The Crisis Center of Johnson County, wants state and federal lawmakers to remember that “prevention almost always ends up being cheaper than treatment.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Our politicians and policymakers will face many important decisions in the coming months. Now more than ever, those leaders need to hear from all of us about the issues impacting our community.

As executive director of The Crisis Center of Johnson County, one of my jobs is to educate our policymakers and the public about the needs of the people we serve. Our programs help thousands of people with diverse needs, but there are some common themes we see among our clients.

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Weekend open thread: Depressing news, inspiring news

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: Some exceptionally sad news caught my eye recently:

A new investigation by the Associated Press and the USA Today network found that in the first six months of 2016, children aged 17 or younger “died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.” Alaska and Louisiana had the highest rates of accidental child shooting. A separate feature in the series focused on three incidents that killed two teenage girls and seriously injured another in Tama County, Iowa.

Government research on accidental gun deaths is nearly non-existent, because more than two decades ago, the National Rifle Association persuaded Congress to defund gun research by the Centers for Disease Control.

Meanwhile, the AP’s Scott McFetridge reported last week on the growing hunger problem in Storm Lake. The problem isn’t lack of jobs–the local unemployment rate is quite low–but a lack of livable wages. Iowa-born economist Austin Frerick mentioned Storm Lake and other towns dominated by meatpacking plants in his guest post here a few months ago: Big Meat, Small Towns: The Free Market Rationale for Raising Iowa’s Minimum Wage.

I enclose below excerpts from all of those stories, along with some good news from the past week:

The African-American Hall of Fame announced four new inductees, who have done incredible work in higher education, criminal justice, community organizing, and the practice of law.

Planned Parenthood marked the 100th anniversary of the first birth control clinic opening in the country on October 16. Click here for a timeline of significant events in the organization’s history.

Drake University Biology Professor Thomas Rosburg will receive this year’s Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Rosburg is a legend among Iowans who care about native plants, wetlands, and prairie restoration.

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Budget looms large, social issues largely absent on the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2016

Governor Terry Branstad wore a pink tie and many colleagues remarked on history made yesterday at the Capitol, as Linda Upmeyer became the first woman to preside over the Iowa House as speaker, as well as the first child of an Iowa legislative leader to rise to the same position. Erin Murphy’s take on the milestone is worth a read.

As in recent years, social issues were almost entirely absent from the leaders’ opening remarks to their Iowa House and Senate colleagues. State budget priorities dominated the comments relating to public policy, with Republicans emphasizing the importance of not spending too much and Democrats emphasizing the need to spend enough on education and other vital services. No one mentioned Branstad’s call to extend the penny sales tax for school infrastructure and divert part of the revenue stream to water programs.

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Harkin yes, Grassley no as Senate approves Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a compromise five-year farm bill this afternoon by 68 votes to 32 (roll call). As occurred in the House of Representatives last week, the farm bill drew substantial support from both caucuses. At the same time, a sizable number of conservative Republicans opposed the bill because of the costs, while some liberal Democrats voted no because of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for ending debate on the farm bill yesterday and for the conference report today. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted no on cloture and on final passage.

After the jump I’ve posted statements from Harkin and Grassley explaining their stance on the farm bill. Click here for details on the contentious provisions of the farm bill. For once I am inclined to agree more with Grassley than with Harkin. In many respects the conference report was a missed opportunity and won’t serve the interests of Iowans or Americans generally.

I also sympathize with Grassley’s outrage at “a select few members dismantling a provision that was passed by wide, bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate.” Congressional rules should be changed so that the conference committee can alter only provisions that differed in the House and Senate bills, not consensus language from both versions.  

On the other hand, I suspect Grassley cast this protest vote because he knew his support wasn’t required to get the farm bill to President Barack Obama’s desk. As disappointing as this legislation is, Iowa’s economy truly needs stability and predictability in federal agricultural programs.

UPDATE: Added Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey’s comments below.  

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New Farm Bill links, plus Iowa political reaction

President Barack Obama will finally have an opportunity to sign a five-year Farm Bill into law. The U.S. House approved the conference committee report today by 251 votes to 166, and the U.S. Senate is expected to approve the deal this week. The House roll call shows an unusual partisan split. Iowa’s four representatives were all among the 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats who voted for the final deal. But 63 House Republicans and 103 Democrats voted no, a mixture of conservatives who objected to spending in the $956 billion bill and liberals who opposed cuts to nutrition programs.

Although 41 representatives and senators served on the conference committee (including Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Steve King), the four top-ranking members of House and Senate Agriculture Committees hashed out the final details. King’s controversial amendment aimed at California’s egg regulations was left on the cutting room floor.

After the jump I’ve posted several takes on the farm bill’s key provisions and comments from the Iowa delegation.  

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