A new bill introduced by Iowa House Republicans last week could drastically cut the types of food that people in the state can buy using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
SNAP, previously known as the Food Stamp Program, is a form of federal food assistance for people with low to no income. Recipients can use SNAP benefits to purchase various items at the grocery store, including fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, snacks and more.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service runs the SNAP program. The new bill, brought forward on Jan. 11, proposes that Iowa request a waiver from the USDA to let it limit the foods that can be purchased with SNAP benefits inside the state. The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
The proposed waiver would restrict SNAP purchases to items that appear on the state’s approved food list for a different federal initiative, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Also known as WIC, the program provides food assistance for pregnant people, new mothers and young children, and it is significantly more limited than SNAP.
“Iowans on SNAP would not be able to buy meat, flour, butter, cooking oil, frozen prepared foods,” Luke Elzinga, the chair of the nonprofit Iowa Hunger Coalition, told Iowa’s News Now. “It’s a huge list.”
In lieu of fresh meat, canned salmon and tuna would be allowed, according to a list of Iowa’s approved WIC foods. In addition to pantry staples like flour and oil, other prohibited items would include canned soup and sliced cheese. Only brown, and not white, rice would be permitted, and shoppers would have to swap white bread and pasta for 100% whole-grain versions.
The Iowa Hunger Coalition slammed the bill in a statement, saying it would “restrict SNAP participants’ ability to make their own food choices, take food away from Iowans, and increase hunger and food insecurity in our state.”
In addition to limiting eligible foods, the bill would also impose multiple restrictions making it more difficult for people to qualify for SNAP in the first place.