Baccam: Iowa’s Summer EBT Decision Hurts Local Economy

Lanon Baccam

By Guest Post

March 4, 2024

As a rural Iowa native, a combat veteran, former advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a candidate for Congress, I understand the challenges families are facing today. Gas and groceries are too high, wages are too low, and party politics seems to get in the way of any real solutions.

Right before the holidays, the state of Iowa announced it would not participate in the USDA’s Summer EBT program – a program that would help families pay for groceries and ensure our kids don’t go hungry when they’re out of school for the summer.

This decision is simply heartless, cruel, and inexcusable. Summer EBT could give 240,000 kids in Iowa better access to meals this summer but instead, kids are being left behind because we have politicians who refuse to break from their political camp and support a bipartisan initiative.

And the truth is, feeding hundreds of thousands of kids is just the surface of this program.

The impact is actually far deeper, investing nearly $29 million in our communities and spurring economic activity that will help countless working families, small businesses and small farms across Iowa. I saw this firsthand at USDA when we launched a pilot program similar to Summer EBT.

First, it provides families who are feeling pinched right now with a stipend to help afford groceries. When stores see higher demand and require more labor, this means more opportunities – for the teenage kid looking for their first job or the working parent who needs a few extra hours.

When our stores see more demand, so do our businesses who process, package and transport food – some of the largest industries in Iowa’s economy that employs thousands of Iowans. Whether it be a large manufacturer like General Mills or a small trucking company, this increases revenue and wages, creates jobs, and stimulates our economy.

And this process all starts with our farmers – many of whom are running family-owned farms and working harder than ever to stay afloat as they compete with large corporate farms. As they supply crops to manufacturers and grocery stores, their sales go up and they become more financially secure.

Simply put, these investments create jobs and grow the economy right here in our communities. I know how critical that is – my parents got jobs at a factory in Mt. Pleasant after they came to Iowa from Laos. Those jobs allowed them to get on their feet, make an honest living, and live the American Dream.

As Iowa families try to make ends meet while paying more for groceries and gas, the Summer EBT program can actually help provide the relief that so many politicians simply spew as a talking point.

It’s incumbent upon every elected official in Iowa to denounce the state’s disregard for not only our families and children, but for our communities who want economic growth more than ever. Zach Nunn, our U.S. Representative and my opponent in my bid for Congress, hasn’t uttered a single word about it. 

Nunn talks a big game about lowering costs and growing the middle class, but when he sees a real opportunity to help provide relief, he sides with his party leaders over us.

As a former USDA official, I’m disheartened. As a father, I’m horrified. As a candidate for Congress, I’m more fired up than ever to be the voice of reason and compassion that Iowa so desperately needs.

Lanon Baccam is a combat veteran, former USDA official, and candidate for Iowa’s third congressional district.



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