# Hunger



Wrong-headed bill on food assistance raises questions

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Sometimes it’s easy to understand legislative proposals. Other times, not so much. House File 3, filed early in the Iowa legislature’s 2023 session, falls in the second category. To understand its potential effect on needy people, take a quick look at two preexisting food programs whose nutritional goals differ.

First, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal program once called food stamps. It exists to help low-income households and those on Medicaid buy groceries.

Second, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (commonly known as WIC) aims to meet the specific nutritional needs of its designated recipients. WIC doesn’t allow recipients to use those funds for meat, sliced cheese, butter, flour, or fresh produce.

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Zach Nunn has a lot to learn about federal food programs

Fresh off his assignment to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Representative Zach Nunn revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of who benefits from federal food assistance programs.

Although the first-term Republican told an interviewer that nutritional assistance goes “largely to blue state communities,” one federal food program alone serves nearly 10 percent of Nunn’s constituents in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

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Holidays: an opportunity to help others in need

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party.      

Thankfully we are nearly six weeks past the 2022 midterm election. I can hear many voters exuding a sigh of relief and shouting, after $17 billion was spent on disinformation, misinformation, and the occasional truthful political ad, “yes, finally, the election is over.”

Normal life is back, and we’ve jumped right into the holiday season. Let’s ponder how to make this year’s holiday season better than we’ve experienced heretofore.

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Governor's action cost Iowans $141 million in food assistance

Iowans who qualify for federal food assistance received $141 million less in benefits from April through August, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ action earlier in the year, according to data the Iowa Hunger Coalition released on October 12.

After Reynolds ended the state’s public health emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowans lost access to the emergency allotments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The Iowa Hunger Coalition calculated that the total amount Iowans received through SNAP dropped by 43 percent from March to April.

Without the emergency allotments, the coalition reported, “On average, households have been receiving $200 less in benefits every month. The average SNAP benefit per meal for individuals in Iowa was $1.56 in August 2022.”

The federal government entirely funds the SNAP program, so the state of Iowa saved no money by depriving food-insecure Iowans of extra benefits.

On the contrary: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has calculated that each $1 issued in SNAP benefits generates $1.54 in economic impact. (When people in need receive more food assistance, they can spend more of their limited resources on other goods and services in their community.) So the $141 million Iowans did not receive from April through August could have increased Iowa’s gross domestic product by $217 million.

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Iowans facing big cuts to food assistance

Approximately 290,000 Iowans living in some 141,000 households will receive less food assistance beginning in April, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to declare the COVID-19 state of emergency over.

Leaders of area food pantries are expecting a surge in demand, as Iowans’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will drop by at least $95 per household, and in some cases by more than 90 percent.

According to the Iowa Hunger Coalition, “The average SNAP benefit for individuals will drop from $2.65 per meal to an estimated $1.52 per meal. Total SNAP benefits issued in the state of Iowa will decrease by an estimated $29.5 million,” a 42.6 percent reduction.

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Five terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2021

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned late in the evening on May 19 after finishing most of their work for this year. (Lawmakers will almost certainly come back for a special session to consider new maps of Iowa’s legislative and Congressional districts.)

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will closely examine several bills that passed in the late session rush. For now, I want to review the legislation that by some minor miracle didn’t make it to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk, in spite of support from powerful interests.

All of these bills are likely to return in some form during the 2022 session, so don’t celebrate too soon. House Republicans were unable to pass a “water quality” bill backed by agricultural groups in 2017. But the Iowa Farm Bureau and its allies spent the interim chipping away at the GOP holdouts. The bill sailed through the House early in the 2018 session. The same scenario could play out with any of the proposals discussed below.

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