Iowa's Children and Families Need Summer EBT!

Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa General Assembly

On December 22, 2023, Iowa announced it would not be participating in the new Summer EBT program, which would provide $120 in nutrition benefits during the summer to 245,000 children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals. With food banks and food pantries assisting record-breaking numbers of Iowans, we simply cannot sit out this historic opportunity to address childhood hunger and food insecurity.

To: Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa General Assembly
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned, urge the Iowa General Assembly to pass legislation to ensure Iowa’s participation in the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT). We simply cannot sit out this historic opportunity to address childhood hunger and food insecurity.

Summer EBT would provide $120 in nutrition benefits to nearly 245,000 children who qualify for free and reduced price school meals in the state of Iowa during the summer months. This total of $29.4 million to feed Iowa’s kids translates to $45.2 million in economic activity generated. Iowa would be responsible for half of the administrative costs of this program – an estimated $2.2 million dollars in the first year and $1.3 million in subsequent years. While we acknowledge that is a considerable amount of money, with a surplus of more than $2 billion in our state budget, it is a small price to pay for feeding Iowa’s food insecure children.

Summer EBT is a tried and tested program, with pilot projects gathering evidence on the program’s positive impact since 2011. In a final summary report of these demonstration projects, USDA Food and Nutrition Service found that providing a $60 monthly Summer EBT benefit:

- reduced food insecurity by 8.3 percentage points and decreased food hardship by 33%;
- increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
- and did not increase consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.

While summer meal program sites are an important piece in ensuring Iowa’s kids can continue to access nutritious food during the summer, real barriers to visiting these sites—including lack of transportation, limited hours, and service gaps in rural areas—will continue to exist for many Iowans. Even in urban areas, not every summer food service sponsor can offer multiple meal services—meaning children who live in close proximity to a site still may not have access to enough food in a day. Providing $40 per child in monthly nutritional benefits during the summer will supplement the role summer meal programs play in providing healthy food for Iowa’s children.

With food banks, food pantries, and other anti-hunger groups facing record-breaking numbers of Iowans turning to them for assistance, and school meal debt rising, we need action from our state’s leaders. Hunger and food insecurity touch the lives of Iowans in every community in our state. Summer EBT is a common sense, evidence-based policy for addressing childhood hunger and food insecurity.

We urge you to make passing Summer EBT a priority in the 2024 Iowa legislative session.