SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The Iowa Legislature is discussing a bill which would prohibit Iowans from purchasing certain foods with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
House File 3 would make the eligible foods for SNAP benefits the same as what’s approved for Iowa’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program. Families would not be able to use snap benefits to buy white bread, meat or pasta sauce.
Jean Logan is the director of the Community Action Agency of Siouxland. She said some of the alternative foods families could buy with their SNAP benefits are more expensive than the proposed banned foods.
“That doesn’t make sense to me,” Logan said. “You would think we would want to encourage families to do things as economically as they could to make those food dollars go even farther.”
House File 3 would also examine the property and vehicles people own when determining if they qualify for SNAP benefits. Logan said this process does not help people in need of food assistance.
“We shouldn’t want to get people down to their last dime before they qualify for programs,” she said. “We should be trying to keep them from going underwater and a lot of people who qualify for food assistance are not on it forever.”
Jake Wanderscheid is the executive director of the Food Bank of Siouxland. He said restricting SNAP users from purchasing meat will lead to more of them relying on food pantries.
“Since that is the most expensive item, we think we’d probably see a 20% increase in families looking for assistance especially those looking for meat,” Wanderscheid said.
Wanderscheid said not everyone can access food pantries easily, so these restrictions are concerning.
“We work really well with our pantry partners to have a variety of hours,” he said. “If you’re working, trying to get a pantry when they’re open can be difficult.”
The proposal is still in House and Senate committees, but has nearly 40 co-sponsors in both chambers.
Even if the bill is approved by Iowa lawmakers, the USDA has final say on any changes made to SNAP benefits.