Iowa Republicans proposed a bill that would drastically limit what foods SNAP recipients can buy.
People wouldn't be able to buy grocery staples like white bread, American cheese, fresh meat, and more.
Critics argue the bill would further burden low-income people who are already food-insecure.
Iowa Republicans are proposing sweeping changes to the state's food assistance program — including banning beneficiaries from buying grocery staples like meat, American cheese, or flour.
A bill co-sponsored by 39 Republican state legislators would limit those getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to buying food on a more restrictive list from a separate program intended for pregnant women and children.
SNAP recipients wouldn't be able to buy a variety of foods, including white grain bread, buns with added nuts or seeds, white rice, pasta sauce, canned fruits or soups, baked beans, cheese slices, butter, or flour.
They would instead be limited to foods approved for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
The foods people can purchase in the WIC program are much more restrictive than those allowed in SNAP. That's because WIC is designed to complement SNAP, and is meant to provide necessary nutrition specifically for — as the name suggests — pregnant women, new mothers, and infants, according to Michelle Book, the president and CEO of Food Bank of Iowa.
WIC is "not designed for people that rely on SNAP benefits to make ends meet," Book told Insider.
Book said the proposed changes would put an "additional burden on people that are food insecure" and are part of an ongoing push by state legislators to cut back on benefits.
"Year after year, the legislature wants to tear down SNAP benefits for the state of Iowa. So this isn't new to us, " Book said.
But she said this bill is "one of the most egregious attempts we've seen over the last many years."
The Des Moines Area Religious Council, an interfaith organization, also slammed the bill as a "punitive policy that will do nothing to improve the health and nutrition of Iowans, but rather be a detriment."
The bill would provide $1 million for the state's Double Up Food Bucks program but would reduce the number of people who qualify for SNAP benefits and also force those who are part of the state's Medicaid expansion to work at least 20 hours a week.
The Iowa Republicans say the money spent on SNAP could be used more efficiently elsewhere.
"It's these entitlement programs," said Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, who is a co-sponsor on the bill, according to local outlet KCCI. "They're the ones that are growing within the budget and are putting pressure on us being able to fund other priorities."
The bill is currently being reviewed by the state legislature's Health and Human Services committee.
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