Letter to the editor: HF3 creates more barriers for hungry families in Iowa

Free Lunch Program volunteers Colleen Schilling holds a crockpot of mixed veggies while Mary Kelly adds them to the foil baking pan on Wednesday on Dec. 8, 2021, in Iowa City. The Free Lunch Program has provided daily meals to locals in need for 40 years. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

By Diane Duncan-Goldsmith, Iowa City

I was Director of Nutrition Services for the Iowa City Community School District when, for the 2008-09 school year, direct certification was implemented. This process automatically certified eligible children for free meals based on families receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits; all that was needed was to download a file containing all eligible families in our district. Because of this, families no longer had to submit yearly meal applications and children in hundreds of families representing several thousand students became immediately eligible for free meal benefits.

Republican bill HF3, an “Act relating to public assistance program integrity,” was introduced by Speaker Grassley and 38 House other members (Holt, Golding, Wheeler, Stone, Dunwell, Mommsen, Collins, Gustoff, Fisher, Moore, Jeneary, Carlson, Vondran, Stoltenberg, Wulf, Shipley, Bradley, Sherman, Deyoe, Graber, Wills, Rinker, P. Thompson, Johnson, Harris, Boden, Nordman, Sorensen, Gehlbach, Kaufmann, Osmundson, Thomson, M. Thompson, Wood, Hora, Windschitl, Bossman, and Gerhold). Additional levels of certification will be required in order for families to participate, including authorization and asset testing which legislators say is needed to limit program fraud. Families would also be penalized if they own two cars. How would any family manage different work schedules, school, daycare, etc., if they only had one car?

What evidence-based facts and data have been provided to support this claim? If families cannot navigate the new application process and lose SNAP benefits, how many children from across the state will not automatically qualify for free school meals, a state in which this year just over 42 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals? SNAP benefits are fully funded by the federal government; the state only covers half the administrative costs (costs which in 2020 were a little over $22 million), all the while Republicans and Governor Reynolds continue to brag about the state’s current budget surplus of almost $2 billion.

If the goal is to decrease the number of families receiving SNAP, how does this help address and alleviate hunger and food insecurity in Iowa? Does the taxpayer-funded stipend legislators receive while in session limit their food choices to the W.I.C. food list? If Republican legislators think families in Iowa are not food insecure, here are some facts. According to, in Iowa, 229,500 people (1 in 14) are facing hunger — and of those 80,160 are children (1 in 9). Here are facts from the Johnson County CommUnity Food Bank: from Jan. 1 through 3 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2023, roughly 144,000 pounds of food were provided to 3,741 households.

The irony of this bill is the fact former Governor Branstad was just appointed President of the World Food Prize, acknowledging his integral role in creating the Iowa Hunger Summit which has been instrumental in combatting food insecurity in Iowa and around the world. Apparently, Representative Grassley and the other supporters of this bill have forgotten Iowa’s long history of actually actively addressing hunger.

It amazes me so many Republican House members believe HF 3 is a good bill for Iowa. This just seems to be another example of bill in search of a problem that does not exist.