Iowa GOP proposed cuts to SNAP-eligible foods; no federal bill

Iowa Republicans introduced a bill that would make staples like fresh meat ineligible for SNAP benefits. But the proposal would not affect other states.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of Americans pay for groceries. 

Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP was used by more than 41 million people last year – roughly 12% of the population – and is a central component of the nation’s hunger relief efforts.

SNAP funds can be used to purchase a wide variety of groceries, though certain products like alcohol and hot food are ineligible. Several viral tweets recently accused Republicans of attempting to limit SNAP benefits by proposing cuts to eligible foods.

THE QUESTION

Did Republicans propose to reduce what foods can be bought with SNAP?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives introduced a bill that would reduce what foods could be bought with SNAP, but it would only affect Iowa – no such bill has been introduced on the federal level.

WHAT WE FOUND

SNAP is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but is administered on the state level.

On Jan. 11, several Republican state representatives in Iowa introduced a bill that proposes numerous changes to how Iowa administers SNAP and some other benefits programs.

One of the proposed changes involves which foods are eligible to be bought with SNAP in Iowa. The bill aims to replace the current list with a more limited list from a different program.

That program is called WIC – Women, Infants, and Children – and whereas SNAP is designed to combat hunger generally, WIC only targets specific nutritional deficiencies. As a result, its list of eligible foods is more restrictive. It also varies from state to state, with each state publishing an annual list of approved products – often down to the brand, size and flavor.

Using the WIC food list would prevent Iowans from using SNAP to purchase several staple foods like flour, fresh meat and white rice. 

However, the bill has not passed – it’s only been introduced. 

Additionally, to make such a significant change to how Iowa administers SNAP, the state would have to get permission from the federal government. The bill would have Iowa request a waiver from the USDA to change the eligible foods list.

If the bill passed and the waiver were granted, the change would still only affect Iowa, as it is just a state proposal. We looked at the list of legislation introduced so far in Congress, and there was no bill that proposed changes to SNAP-eligible foods on the federal level.

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