Iowa’s food aid program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has increased benefits for Iowa, while the UI Food Pantry in Iowa has seen a steady increase in visitor numbers.

Photo illustration by Cecilia Shearon.

Iowa’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has received an increase in federal funding given to those participating in the food aid program, including thousands of Johnson County residents.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recently received an estimated 25-27 percent increase in federal funding for the 2022 budget year.

“We’re seeing some kind of baseline upgrade,” said Janee Harvey, adult, child, and family services administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Services. “Whether you are in a one-person household or a seven-person household, you will see this new percentage increase in the amount of benefits you will receive.”

The increase in funds came into effect on October 1, after the benefits from the COVID-19 relief law from 2020 expired in September. The Aid Act gave the beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a bonus of 15 percent from the original budget for fiscal year 2021.

The new services for the 2022 financial year are not tied to the COVID-19 aid, but part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program itself.

“We have seen a number of increases in food aid to respond to the pandemic,” Harvey said.

All funds made available to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are issued by the federal government and approved annually for each fiscal year.

In fiscal 2022, 285,040 eligible Iowers will receive $ 458 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

There are 9,610 recipients in Johnson County. An average of $ 64,179,387 is granted per month.

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Harvey said inflation rose during the pandemic and families are now having a harder time keeping afloat.

“Like other people’s basic needs, like housing, utilities, anything that increases – and you would see that, as I said, in the consumer price index or inflation, we know that unfortunately families sometimes have something to do”, competing decisions , ‘Do I get food or do I pay my rent?’ “Harvey said.

Harvey said that with Iowans out of the pandemic, she hopes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will help people get them back on their feet.

Sarah Henry, a consultant for the University of Iowa Iowa Food Pantry, said the pandemic had caused an increase in new people visiting the pantry and that the growing number of people had not stopped more than 18 months later.

“We have about 100 people visiting us every week, and a lot of those people also buy from roommates or family members,” said Henry. “I’d say that number is probably bigger when you look at how many people eat the food from the pantry, but around 100 visitors who check in each week.”

Henry said the big performance gain from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was good for Iowans.

The Food Pantry in Iowa does not receive any government funding, said Henry, but has a budget and donations approved by the UI student government.

The Food Pantry is not affiliated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but encourages people in need to apply for the program.

“The pandemic really made it clear that we need to provide good food and resources for basic needs throughout society,” said Henry. “I don’t think the pandemic will just go away after the pandemic ends.”