Apr 7, 2023 - News

As spring comes, food insecurity continues to worry pantries

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) experienced a record-breaking number of people seeking food assistance in any March — 19,410 visitors.

  • 1,456 of those people were first-time visitors — also a record-breaking amount.

Why it matters: Food insecurity for metro families is only deepening.

  • DMARC saw 1,515 people come in to receive assistance on April 4 — the second-highest single day ever in the non-profit's nearly 50-year existence.
  • The highest day? Jan. 3.

State of play: The combination of inflated food prices, end of COVID benefits and lingering pandemic hardships are driving more people in for assistance, says Tamyra Harrison of the Salvation Army of Des Moines.

  • They're also experiencing an increase in people seeking rental assistance. As prices continue to go up, families are having to make "hard choices" between food and bills.
  • The Salvation Army takes applications at the beginning of each month for rent assistance. On the first application day this month, they ran out of funds within an hour — about $6,000, Harrison tells Axios.

The big picture: Struggles are being felt throughout the whole metro.

  • The Urbandale Food Pantry experienced a 51% visitor increase this March in comparison to 2022, according to DMARC.
  • Rural Dallas and Warren counties are seeing some of the highest-growing pain points, Harrison says. People are especially struggling there because of higher gas prices

What's next: Food nonprofits warn that a bill going through the Legislature could make these problems even worse.

  • Senate File 494 requires additional identity verification from SNAP recipients that could create hurdles and disincentivize people from applying for the program, according to DMARC.

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