Iowa proposes bill to limit SNAP purchases

Food stamps have become a staple in the lives of many Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. These benefits helped those who weren’t able to work or were food insecure, but Republican lawmakers in Iowa have recently proposed a bill that would restrict the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The bill being proposed is called House File 3, and it would restrict what type of foods qualify for SNAP benefits. It is mainly being proposed due to cost-cutting in Iowa, but SNAP is funded by the federal government, and Iowa funds only half of the program’s administrative costs, leaving many confused about why funding is such a large concern.

According to the Iowa Hunger Coalition, this bill would restrict people from buying meat, butter, flour, white rice, white bread, sliced cheese and many other household staples.

This bill would also restrict those using SNAP benefits to the same foods approved by Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which is another food benefits program. Though, this program is restrictive because a lot of its benefits are specific to mothers and infants.

I feel like putting these restrictions on food benefits is harmful to those who rely on them to feed themselves and their family. During the pandemic, the U.S. saw a rise in the number of people who rely on food stamps. There has been a 14% increase in people receiving food stamps from before the pandemic began.

This data shows that many people are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic and rely on food stamps regularly. Taking away these benefits from those who need them in Iowa would be detrimental to their welfare.

With the backlash that came from the proposal of this bill, Republican State Rep. Ann Meyer said that she is looking to change the details of the bill because the original was too harsh. Her proposal is to ban “food assistance to buy soda with calories and candy.”

SNAP users have voiced difficulties with affording healthy foods. Photo courtesy of Jasper Greek Golangco, Wikipedia.

“We’re also paying for Medicaid. We’re also paying for health care. So why wouldn’t we, you know, provide nutritious foods with taxpayer dollars?” Meyer said, according to Iowa Public Radio.

This adjustment to the bill also came with controversy. The Iowa Hunger Coalition states that “over 60% of SNAP participants report the affordability of healthy foods as a barrier to achieving a healthy diet throughout the month.” This means that banning sugary foods won’t have much impact on people who rely on SNAP benefits because they are still unable to afford healthy food.

The Iowa Hunger Coalition also brings up a great point about how placing a limit on purchases of soda and candy undermines the real causes of food insecurity in America, which are low wages and limited access to things like affordable food, housing and healthcare.

Restricting food benefits in Iowa is harmful to many Americans who are in need of support. I think that we definitely need to address the bigger issues that cause food insecurity in America, but limiting SNAP benefits will do nothing but help Iowa’s state government cut costs.

Photo by Pixabay, Pexels.