(Des Moines) -- Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne is among those sounding the alarm on food insecurity issues stemming from COVID-19.
Earlier this week, Axne joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff--the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris--in touring the Food Bank of Iowa headquarters in Des Moines to highlight an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments included in the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. Speaking on KMA's "Morning Line" program earlier this week, Axne says the Food Bank and other food pantries across the state are doing a great job of addressing problems with food insecurity. But, the West Des Moines Democrat says the issue demonstrates the country is still in a difficult position when it comes to pandemic recovery.
"You know, we just can judge economic development by what the stock market says, or the GDP," said Axne. "We say 50% more Iowans say they were going hungry over this past year. That's about 450,000 across our state."
Approximately $3.5 billion in additional food stamp funding was included in the relief package.
"We made sure that in the American Rescue Plan that we helped hungry families by increasing SNAP by 15%," she said. "We cannot keep having families go without food. Here in Iowa, that's what we're seeing: too much food insecurity, and especially for our children, as well."
Axne, however, says more must be done to address the root causes of hunger in the U.S.
"First and foremost, we need to pay people better," said Axne. "When people are making $7.25 an hour, you're not able to afford much. Therefore, you don't have the funds that you need to purchase food for a family of four--even for one person. So, we need to pay people better.
"We need to address the cost of health care, so that people can keep more money in their pockets, instead of spending it on those issues. We have to lower the costs of things like housing, and have affordable housing for folks," she added.
Axne says food insecurity is a particularly difficult situation in Iowa.
"We should never be at a place like this in our country," she said. "We're better than this. You know, the fact that in Iowa, over 20% of our children have food insecurity, and we pride ourselves in being the bread basket of the world. It's time that we level the playing field for people across the country so that they can afford their food."
The congresswoman also says regional processing must be brought back to Iowa, so that there's more opportunity to produce clean food "in our own backyard." You can hear the full interview with Cindy Axne on our "Morning Line" page at kmaland.com.