DES MOINES — Iowa’s food banks were left out of Gov. Terry Branstad’s budget proposal this year, marking the second time in three years the governor has not set aside state funding for the food bank system.
Branstad vetoed $500,000 for food banks in 2012. In 2013, he included $1 million in the state budget for the food bank system on the condition the state’s food banks raise a matching $1 million privately.
This year’s proposal has no state money in it for food banks, matching or otherwise.
“Not this year,” David Roederer, director of the Iowa Department of Management, said during a budget briefing Tuesday morning. He said the food banks and the governor understood last year’s matching agreement was a one-time deal.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in September, roughly 12.6 percent of Iowans were “food insecure” during 2010-2012, meaning they don’t have access — physical or economic — to nutritious food to meet dietary needs. That’s less than the national average of 14.7 percent on a scale that ranges from the low of 8.7 percent in North Dakota to a high of 20.9 percent in Mississippi.
“There’s always a discussion, on both sides of the aisle, on what’s the best way to make sure those food banks are thriving,” said Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls. “I know the governor believes that private investment is probably the best way, and I believe that, too. Whether or not we should be appropriating anything or any help from the Legislature will be up for debate.”
State Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said although state money for food banks wasn’t intended to be an annual appropriation, public money needs to play a role.
“It is important, it is a safety net in a place like Iowa where there should be no hunger. We’re the nation’s breadbasket, right?” he said. “We should have public-private partnerships that provide stability for the local food banks. What we know about civic organizations like the food banks is sometimes the private (financial support) doesn’t fill the need.”