There should be no such thing as hunger in Iowa. Sadly, Governor Branstad recently vetoed a $500,000 investment in our statewide Food Bank system that would have put us on a path to get closer to that goal. Sadder still, at a moment in time when the public is rightfully frustrated by the inability legislators to work together, we came together, in a bipartisan way to ensure Iowa, the heart of the nation’s bread basket, would have a thoughtful, fiscally responsible answer to those suffering from food insecurity. The governor should have honored that work by signing the bill.
It might surprise Iowans to learn that we remain one of the last states to partner with our non-profit food banks and charitable organizations like the United Way, to stamp out hunger. Nearly every other state invests significantly more than $500,000, and Iowa’s current do nothing policy is shared by only a few remaining states. Let us not be the last to act. That is why we view the veto as an opportunity to draw attention to the very real problem of food insecurity right here in our own back yard.
Too many Iowa children are hungry when they go to bed and when they go to school. A Feeding America study shows that over 146,000 Iowa children lack access to daily staples that make a healthy diet. Going to bed hungry is bad enough, but it’s hard to pay attention in school when your tummy is growling. Further, in the long term, malnourished children face a lifetime of health issues, which can be chronic or life-threatening if ignored.
Too many senior citizens in Iowa faced with fixed incomes find paying for food increasingly difficult. Choosing between medicine and other bills, making healthy and wise food choices take a back seat for many seniors. That’s why food banks partner with many of our non-profits and churches, who focus on helping vulnerable seniors to help bridge that gap. For example, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank delivers food to seniors at senior meal sites and to home bound seniors. Around Iowa, the Iowa Food Bank Association goes to rural communities to help seniors apply for SNAP, a low-income food assistance program.
Too many working Iowans have lost jobs or had their incomes cut through no fault of their own. They are relying on local food banks now more than ever to provide for their families. Over 400,000 people in Iowa are food insecure and nearly 42% of them are not eligible for any form of government assistance because they make too much money. Demand is up 30% at the food banks around Iowa and some food pantries have seen their needs more than double. Hunger used to be a short term problem, where people would normally use services for a couple of months to get back on their feet, whereas now we are seeing Iowans using their food banks for much longer periods of time.
It is for these reasons, among others, that we believed it was time for the State of Iowa to be a meaningful partner in our food bank system. This was not a new program or an attempt to re-invent the wheel. It was a thoughtful, fiscally responsible way to support existing non-profit’s who play a role in feeding hungry Iowans. For a marginal investment of state resources, the Iowa Food Bank bill could have strengthened successful children’s food programs, continued our efforts to ensure senior citizens can stay healthy and independent in their own homes and supported struggling families suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Iowan Norman Borlaug said, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” Let us honor Mr. Borlaug’s words with our deeds, by passing the food bank bill again and encouraging Governor Branstad to finally sign it.