Mar 15, 2023 - News

A year after ending SNAP boost, Iowa families still struggling

Illustration of a padlock as a bag of groceries

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been nearly a year since Iowa ended its additional SNAP benefits, but local nonprofits say food insecurity has only worsened in the metro area.

Driving the news: Visits to Des Moines Area Religious Council food pantries have been nearing peak pre-pandemic levels since January and the trend is expected to continue, spokesperson Blake Willadsen tells Axios.

  • 1,614 individuals visited the pantries Jan. 3 — the highest single-day number for the food nonprofit in history.

State of play: At the beginning of the pandemic, Iowa households on SNAP received a monthly average of around $200 in additional benefits.

  • Even prior to that, food pantry visits were increasing year-over-year as families dealt with rising costs of living, Willadsen says.

Yes, but: In an effort to add more employees into the workforce, Iowa chose to leave the program early, ending the additional dollars in April 2022.

  • That led to spikes in food assistance at pantries like DMARC. One in six Des Moines residents went to a DMARC pantry in 2022.

What's next: The demand isn't expected to slow down with inflation, while new SNAP-related bills in the Legislature could create more difficulties for recipients, says Luke Elzinga of DMARC.

  • The Iowa House and Senate are both considering SNAP-related bills to create more restrictions on who can qualify for food assistance, Elzinga tells Axios.
  • Both bills contain a $15,000 asset limit with exemptions for vehicles.
  • They would also require real-time eligibility verification, which requires recipients fill out paperwork within a 10-day notice if there's an employment change.

What they're saying: "This just adds more administrative hurdles that folks would potentially need to jump through," Elzinga says.

The big picture: SNAP ended in most states at the end of last month.


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