INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly 700,000 Hoosiers, including thousands of children, face the challenges of food insecurity, according to the non-profit Feeding America.
Indiana’s Land Use Task Force spent three hours Tuesday going through a laundry list of recommendations next session, including 16 recommendations for food insecurity measures. State Rep. Renee Pack said the most important thing the General Assembly can do is to educate Hoosiers who may not even know they’re eligible for food assistance.
”We’ve got to figure out ways to reach people that don’t have to be insecure when it comes to food,” State Rep. Renee Pack said.
According to the representative, 25 percent of SNAP-eligible Hoosier families are not taking advantage of the program.
”I think education for parents when it comes to the application process applying for food stamps or for SNAP, so, I think that could be the door that we need to open when it comes to food insecurity,” State Rep. Renee Pack said.
Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, said in 2021, only 40 percent of food-insecure Hoosier households qualified for SNAP benefits, in part due to the program’s “asset test.”
”It is a huge gap,” Weikert Bryant said. ”In Indiana, you can’t have a bank account, essentially, is what we’re talking about, that has over $5,000 in it, or you’re ineligible.”
Eliminating the asset test is one of several recommendations on the table. If approved, the net income test would be used instead of the combined gross income, net income, and asset tests. This is something Weikert Bryant said is the most important thing the state can do to provide more access to food.
”It was actually put into statute several years ago to raise it above the federal minimum, and there’s nothing that can be done while that’s in statute at a certain number,” Weikert Bryant.
Policy experts like agriculture economist Dr. Shellye Suttles said the stigma surrounding SNAP is another major barrier to food access. She said she hopes the state will consider boosting support for outreach programs like SNAP-Ed.
”We should support all households in participating in these programs because if they do not, it will have long-term public health and economic consequences for the state of Indiana,” Suttles said.
Other recommendations include asking the federal government to make it easier for retailers to become SNAP-eligible, and funding transportation and delivery services for SNAP recipients.