Iowa GOP Proposed Cuts in SNAP-Eligible Food; no federal law

Iowa Republicans introduced a bill that would make staple foods like fresh meat uneligible 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 — about 12% of the population — and is a central part of the nationwide effort to end hunger.

SNAP funds can be used to purchase a variety of groceries, although certain items, such as alcohol and hot food, are not eligible. Several viral tweets recently accused Republicans of trying to limit SNAP benefits by proposing cuts in eligible foods.

THE QUESTION

Have Republicans proposed reducing what groceries can be purchased with SNAP?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This requires context.

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives introduced a bill that would limit what groceries could be purchased with SNAP, but it would only affect Iowa — no such bill was introduced at the federal level.

WHAT WE FOUND

SNAP is overseen by the US Department of Agriculture but administered at the state level.

On Jan. 11, several Republican state officials in Iowa introduced a bill proposing numerous changes to the way Iowa administers SNAP and some other benefit programs.

One of the proposed changes affects what groceries can be purchased with SNAP in Iowa. The bill aims to replace the current list with a more limited list from another program.

This program is called WIC – Women, Infants, and Children – and while SNAP is designed to address hunger in general, WIC only targets specific nutritional deficiencies. As a result, the list of permitted foods is more restrictive. It also varies from state to state, with each state releasing an annual list of approved products — often down to brand, size, and flavor.

Using the WIC Grocery List would prevent Iowans from using SNAP to purchase several staples such as flour, fresh meat and white rice.

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

Additionally, to make such a significant change to the way Iowa administers SNAP, the state would need to obtain federal government approval. The bill would prompt Iowa to apply to the USDA for a waiver to change the list of permitted foods.

If the law were passed and the waiver granted, the amendment would still only affect Iowa as it is only a state proposal. We’ve looked at the list of laws passed in Congress so far, and there hasn’t been a bill proposing changes to SNAP-eligible foods at the federal level.

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