If State Rep. Cindy Ziemke has her way, Hoosiers won’t be able to buy some kinds of snack foods with food stamps.
A Republican from Batesville who represents Fayette County in the General Assembly, Ziemke said she will author a bill that would reform what people can buy with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps.
“Texas passed it to where they can’t buy soft drinks and fast food, anything with sugar,” she said. “I’ve tried this since I was elected. The feds have to grant a waiver and I’m sure the Coca-Cola lobby and the Frito-Lay lobby and everyone else is really, really strong, that’s why nothing gets done with this legislation.”
Maine passed a similar bill a long time ago but is still waiting on a federal waiver, she said.
The Indiana General Assembly went to work Monday, starting with a prayer breakfast and afternoon session. This is a short session, in which major legislation and big budget changes are not supposed to be considered.
One of her big concerns is that energy drinks can be purchased using SNAP benefits, Ziemke said. Constituents have called to complain after being in line at a grocery store and seeing people pay for snacks with EBT cards used for SNAP benefits.
But she wishes SNAP could pay for some things that are more necessary.
“I wish the federal government would change SNAP so you could use it to buy laundry detergent, soap, toothpaste and toliet paper,” she said.
SNAP is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, originally intended to utilize surplus food production to help feed lower income families.
Getting a bill like hers moved for active consideration in the General Assembly takes strong co-authors. Finding them is a priority in the first days of the session, she said. She had not filed her bill as of Wednesday, but when filed she said it would likely be referred to the House Family, Children and Human Afffairs Committee, of which she is a member.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration also has to be supportive of her SNAP bill, since the agency will have to request the waiver. Her initial contact with FSSA was positive, she said.
“Indiana is so good at so much but we still have such an unhealthy population; our health numbers are awful,” she said.
Ziemke said she had authored a bill to raise the age to purchase tobacco in the state to 21. That bill has been pulled, since the federal government made it a national law just before Christmas. Still, the state legislature may approve it anyway, she said.
The short session must end by March 14.