Staff Editorial

State government can afford to help hungry Iowans

Volunteers packed boxes of donated food and other supplies for Marion residents to pick up at the Marion City Food Pantr
Volunteers packed boxes of donated food and other supplies for Marion residents to pick up at the Marion City Food Pantry in Marion, Iowa, on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Images showing long lines of cars waiting to get boxes of food from pantries offer a visual representation of the hardships 2020 has imposed on Iowa families.

The coronavirus pandemic and this summer’s extreme weather in Eastern Iowa have led to increased need for food assistance. Since the federal government is offering meager and unstable assistance, Iowans in the public and private sectors must step up to keep our neighbors fed.

Many service providers are making the same observation - they have an existing base of repeat clients, but they’re also seeing new clients who are seeking assistance for their first time. That surge in demand comes as the pandemic is interrupting nonprofits’ operations, necessitating new pantry models like the drive-through pick-ups recently seen in news photos and broadcasts.

At a mobile pantry event in Cedar Rapids in September, demand was so high that supplies ran out and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program had to restock, The Gazette’s Marissa Payne reported. The line of cars waiting for food grew so long that police had to cut it off.

Anecdotal reports of increased need are reflected in survey data. The portion of Iowans who say they couldn’t cover a month of expenses with their savings has nearly doubled during the pandemic, according to a recent report from United Ways of Iowa. Low-income Iowans were most likely to report lost jobs or reduced wages.

Private donations to Iowa’s food banks and pantries play an important part in sustaining anti-hunger efforts, but action from the government also is needed.

To address ongoing challenges, a group of Democratic Iowa legislators is advocating to direct a small portion of state reserve funds to hunger relief. We implore Gov. Kim Reynolds and the GOP legislative majority to heed the call.

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The federal government has proved an unreliable and tight-fisted partner in relieving the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of Iowa has an ability to help through a healthy budget surplus and rainy-day fund.

That rainy-day fund is for a crisis such as this. Feeding hungry Iowans ought to be a top priority.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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