Are Food Stamps (SNAP) Getting Cut?

On January 19 2023, Iowa state representative Sami Scheetz tweeted with a claim that the Republican party had “just proposed new restrictions on the types of food eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits”:

Scheetz’s tweet featured a screenshot with “Axios (a news site) Des Moines” at the top. Following text described “proposed restrictions”:

Fact Check

Claim: In January 2023, Republican lawmakers “proposed new restrictions on the types of food eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.” Proposed restrictions included sliced cheese, white grains, and “fresh meat.”

Description: The claim states that new restrictions have been proposed on the types of food eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. The mentioned restrictions include prohibiting the purchase of white grains, sliced cheese, and fresh meats.

Rating: Decontextualized

Rating Explanation: The claim was found to be decontextualized as the proposed restrictions were state-level, specifically intended for Iowa and not for the entire nation. In addition, the restrictions were still under process, not finalized.

  • No white grains — people can only purchase 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and 100% whole wheat pasta.
  • No baked, refried or chili beans — people can purchase black, red and pinto beans.
  • No fresh meats — people can purchase only canned products like canned tuna or canned salmon.
  • No sliced, cubed or crumbled cheese. No American cheese.

What’s next: A House subcommittee will consider the bill.

No link was included, but “Axios” was visible as a source on the screenshot. The screenshot matched a January 19 2023 article headlined, “No more sliced cheese, white rice under proposed Iowa SNAP bill.” (SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)

As indicated above, Scheetz was a member of the Iowa state legislature. According to Axios, the restrictions purportedly proposed in the screenshot were state-level, not federal:

Iowa House Republicans are proposing restrictions on the state’s SNAP benefits that could dramatically limit what foods recipients can get at the store.

Axios linked to the text of a bill on Iowa’s state legislature’s website, “House File 3, An Act relating to public assistance program integrity …” We found no search matches for “whole [wheat]” and “fresh meat,” but a search for “approved” led to the following passage:

The department of health and human services shall request a waiver from the food and nutrition service of the United States department of agriculture to provide that, for the purposes of state administration of the supplemental nutrition assistance program, eligible foods as defined in 72 C.F.R. §271.2 include only those items defined as supplemental foods in 7 C.F.R. §246.2 as specified in the most current Iowa special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children approved foods list.

Axios also linked to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s [PDF], “Iowa WIC Program Approved Foods as of July 1, 2021.” That document detailed which foods were included in Iowa’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as “WIC.”

Several restrictions in Scheetz’s screenshot matched the document; it did not expressly prohibit “fresh meat,” but contained no section about meats other than “infant” varieties (baby food). Portions on the left side of the document featured clarifications including:

“CANNED BEANS NO baked beans, refried bean or chili beans NO soup or soup mix NO added vegetables, fruits, meat, sugars, fats, or oils[.]”

“CHEESE NO sliced, cubed or crumbles NO added ingredients or flavoring NO processed cheese, cheese spreads or American cheese NO cheese purchased from a service counter[.]”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also called “food stamps”) and WIC were both managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a USDA resource page (“WIC Food Packages – Regulatory Requirements for WIC-Eligible Foods”) began:

The following list provides the federal requirements for WIC-eligible foods. USDA requirements for WIC-eligible foods can be found in 7 CFR Part 246.10 and WIC Policy Memorandum #2015-3, Eligibility of White Potatoes for Purchase with the Cash-Value Vouchers. WIC state agencies must use these requirements when authorizing foods on the state WIC food list. However, state agencies do not have to authorize all foods that meet WIC-eligibility requirements.

Iowa’s proposed legislation referenced 7 CFR Part 246.[2], and the National Archives’ Code of Federal Regulations hosted a copy of it — “Part 246 – Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants And Children.” Specifically, the proposed legislation in Iowa referenced a portion of the “definitions” subsection, regarding the USDA’s manner of defining “supplemental foods”:

Supplemental foods means those foods containing nutrients determined by nutritional research to be lacking in the diets of pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children, and foods that promote the health of the population served by the WIC Program as indicated by relevant nutrition science, public health concerns, and cultural eating patterns, as prescribed by the Secretary in § 246.10.

A “Bill History” section indicated the Iowa legislation was “introduced” on January 11 2023. On the same date it was “referred to Health and Human Services,” and a “subcommittee” was assigned to it.

A popular tweet indicated “the GOP just proposed new restrictions on the types of food eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits,” purportedly proposing restrictions on “white grains,” “sliced, cubed, or crumbled cheese,” and “fresh meat.” Scheetz’s tweet featured a January 19 2023 Axios Des Moines item about a proposal in Iowa’s state legislature on January 11 2023. The restrictions in question applied to Iowa’s version of the USDA’s WIC benefits. The proposal did not apply outside of Iowa, and they remained in process in Iowa as of January 20 2023.