(The Center Square) – Iowa will invest $5 million in food banks and food pantry networks through a new fund, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority announced Wednesday.
The funding will help more Iowans in need have access to fresh, nutrition food, they said.
According to an IEDA factsheet, the dollars are part of the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program. All costs must be obligated or expended between March 3, 2021, and the end of 2024, otherwise the money must be given back to the state. IEDA will begin accepting and reviewing applications Thursday and close the applications window July 1, or when funding runs out, the release said. Projects must be completed by June 30, 2026.
“Access to fresh foods is a challenge for those facing food insecurity and soaring inflation has made it even harder,” Reynolds said. “Iowa is making long-term investments to reduce food insecurity in our communities – supporting food banks and their networks to better serve those in need. This one-time infrastructure investment will help improve capacity and distribution at Iowa’s food banks, and ensure more Iowans have access to the food they need.”
The Iowa Food Insecurity Infrastructure Fund will help nonprofits that have experienced economic hardship build, expand or remodel facilities to increase the amount of food distributed to local food pantries, according to the news release. Nonprofits that may be eligible include food pantry networks that are primary distribution points and food banks that are bulk food aggregators or distributors that replenish the state’s food pantries. Individual food pantries that distribute bags or boxes of food directly to Iowans aren’t eligible. IEDA said the food pantries get food through partnerships with local food banks or pantry networks and receive donations from grocery manufacturers, retailers and food drives.
The state will fund up to 25% of the total project costs, up to $2 million, via reimbursements as project costs occur, IEDA said. Grant recipients must use data to prove to IEDA that they were able to serve more Iowans. Organizations can apply for funding for construction costs, development or acquisition of a site, building permit fees, engineering and architectural services, or industrial equipment. Projects in progress are only eligible if the applicant can demonstrate a need for financial assistance and/or project expansion and compliance with the Uniform Guidance. The funds can’t replace already existing or pledged funding.
Quad-City Times reportedthat food pantry network Des Moines Area Religious Council spokesman Blake Willadsen said that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should take priority and that he didn’t know whether the council would apply for the program.
“It has been proven time and time again that SNAP is the most effective tool we have at our disposal as a community to address food insecurity,” Willadsen said in an email to The Center Square. “Our work at the DMARC Food Pantry Network is directly tied to changes in the SNAP program and it is hard to see the record numbers we are seeing right now going down with the changes that are being proposed at the state and federal level.”
Reynolds has yet to sign a bill Iowa legislators passed that would increase requirements for Iowans on SNAP, and federal lawmakers are also considering raising work requirements for SNAP, as Quad-City Times reported.
“Building out the infrastructure of our food banks and food pantries is a critical piece in addressing the need we are seeing in the community, but the best way to help people right now is by providing easy access to programs like SNAP to help offset the increased cost of living,” Willadsen told The Center Square. “Individual food pantries, food banks, and food pantry networks are purchasing more food than ever before to provide the dignified experience a pantry visitor deserves. If more people lose access to SNAP then this trend will likely continue or worsen.”