Food pantry expects increased need to accompany new location

Food pantry expects increased need to accompany new location
Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 11:06 PM CST
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - A steady stream of people visited the Coralville Community Food Pantry Saturday as it opened its new location 804 13th Avenue.

John Boller, Executive Director, said the biggest gain with the new location was the increased storage space. The old location had been a post office, and Boller said, “It’s been a really wonderful location for us, but we quickly outgrew it, the building was falling apart.”

“At certain points, we had to turn down food donations, had to cut back on the amount of food that we were purchasing,” Boller added. “And of course, that didn’t make a lot of sense, because we were seeing a very increased need. “

According to Boller, that need increased especially in the last year. He said throughout 2022, the pantry saw a 45% increase in visitors compared to the prior year. He said he has a good idea as to why.

“We can kind of pinpoint to some specific policies,” said Boller. “The public health emergency proclamation was done away with at the state level, which meant that everybody who’s enrolled in SNAP...their monthly allotment benefits was drastically reduced on average by about $200 per household.”

Iowa lawmakers are currently considering another change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Under the bill:

  • SNAP users would be limited to only what’s allowed in the Women, Infants, and Children program. That means they wouldn’t be able to buy things like fresh meat, white bread or canned fruits and veggies.
  • It would also require people to take an assets test before qualifying.
  • It would lower the income level Iowans need to qualify for the SNAP program.

Boller thinks if the bill passes, the pantry will see need increase again.

“Absolutely, that would be a detrimental change to what is a really crucial part of the food safety net in Iowa,” said Boller.

Rabecca Asher used the food pantry to bolster her SNAP benefits. When TV9 spoke to her Saturday, she hadn’t heard of potential changes to SNAP, but she was wary of them.

“I’m hoping at least it stays for the good and doesn’t get worse because it’s already hard enough,” said Asher. “We’re just a normal everyday family that is just struggling to get through, like everyone else.”

Republican Speaker of the House Pat Grassley said funding “entitlement” programs like SNAP creates pressure when it comes to funding other priorities.