The director of the Department of Human Services says February’s record number of Iowans who received food assistance isn’t necessarily an indicator of a lagging economy. D-H-S Director Kevin Concannon says a lot of the increase is due to changes to make the program that used to be called “food stamps” easier to use — and publicity.
Just over 224-thousand people receive the assistance in February. Concannon says that’s the highest number since the farm crisis of the 1980’s. Concannon says there’s no question that the high numbers in the 80’s were directly linked to the economy. But, he says today Iowa has the highest number of people working in the history of the state.
Concannon says there are a lot of costs that make it tough even for working people to afford food. He says, “The term one hears often expressed often these days is food insecurity.” Concannon says that means individuals or families don’t have the income to pay higher costs of gas, heating fuel and prescription drugs. He says those people “crimp” on the food side when they don’t have enough money.
Concannon says the federally funded food assistance program will bring in a record 250-million dollars. Concannon says those federal dollars are a boost beyond the people who need to buy food. He says it’s a big part of the revenue for the stores across the state, and Concannon says it also helps support farm prices as people buy more food.
Concannon says although the state hit a record for the number of people on food assistance — 43-percent of the estimated people who’re eligible for the program have still not signed up.