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Purdue study reveals how low-income Hoosiers increased their access to healthy food

INDIANAPOLIS – A new study from Purdue University highlights how a group of low-income Hoosiers dramatically increased their access to health food.

All were part of the year-long study and were recipients of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, the federal food stamp program.

The study analyzed 575 people from low-income households, all receiving SNAP benefits, and found those that participated in a supplemental nutrition education program increased their food security by 25 percent.

“It shows that this type of intervention can really be part of a solution for food insecurity, and it could be effective over a long period of time,” Heather Eicher-Miller said, an assistant professor at Purdue who helped lead the research that appeared in The Journal of Nutrition.

Indiana in recent years has taken steps to change the use of food stamps.

Last year, the state reinstated requirements for Hoosier adults without kids or a disability to work an average 20 hours per week or participate in job training programs.

Now a proposal by State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) would no longer require Hoosiers who lose their jobs to undergo an asset test and exhaust their savings or assets before qualifying for assistance.

“Food stamps are a temporary situation and we ought to be able to come in and help someone who lost their job regardless of their retirement monies,” Merritt said.

The Indianapolis lawmaker also wants to expand access to include convicted drug offenders. Current law prohibits them from receiving the federal assistance.

Merritt said he believes that change would help fight Indiana’s drug epidemic, and as the Purdue study found, increase access to healthy food.

“According to the results we found, it really is making a difference and can be a piece of a solution,” Eicher-Miller said.

According to the most recent state data, 708,553 Hoosiers received food stamp assistance in October, an 11 percent decrease from the same time last year.

State officials in part credit the improving economy for the change.