Reynolds blames childhood obesity on decision not to feed poor kids

By Ty Rushing

December 22, 2023

Iowa won’t participate in a federal program to feed underprivileged kids next summer, and Gov. Kim Reynolds cited “childhood obesity” as one of the reasons why.

The state had until Jan. 1 to apply to the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer EBT program that would have provided Iowa with about $29 million in federal funding to feed about 240,000 kids over the summer months when school is out.

In exchange for the funding, Iowa would have to split the costs of administering the program to the tune of about $2.2 million.

“Federal COVID-era cash benefit programs are not sustainable and don’t provide long-term solutions for the issues impacting children and families,” Reynolds said in a release. “An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”

The Summer EBT cards would be issued directly in the child’s name and Reynolds argued that the program wasn’t compatible with existing meal or food assistance programs under the umbrellas of the Iowa Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“HHS and the Department of Education have well-established programs in place that leverage partnerships with community-based providers and schools who understand the needs of the families they serve,” Reynolds said.

“If the Biden Administration and Congress want to make a real commitment to family well-being, they should invest in already existing programs and infrastructure at the state level and give us the flexibility to tailor them to our state’s needs.”

State Sen. Sara Trone Garriott (D-West Des Moines) was not happy about the governor’s decision. She has been one of Iowa’s most vocal officials on eradicating food insecurity and has recently petitioned the governor’s office to accept the federal funds.

“We are in a food insecurity crisis, with record numbers of Iowans seeking help from food pantries. It is shocking that in a time of great need our governor would refuse millions of federal dollars that would go directly to feed hundreds of thousands of Iowa children,” said Trone Garriott.

“Governor Reynolds knows this is a shameful decision that will hurt struggling Iowa families—that’s why she announced it with a cowardly press release full of excuses on the Friday before Christmas,” she continued.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.



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