After the Trump administration proposed its 2019 budget, one of the United States’ most important programs could see major changes. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, will no longer be in monetary form and instead recipients will receive “USDA Foods package,” as it was coined in Trump’s budget.
Consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned meats, fruits and vegetables, SNAP recipients will “lose much of their ability to choose the the buy with their SNAP benefits with the new concept that was developed internally at the USDA.
SNAP recipients, who currently get their benefits loaded to an EBT card, have the ability to use the money on their of choice foods as long as it falls under the program’s guidelines. But under Trump’s proposed budget, SNAP recipients would instead receive their benefits in the form of a box – “America’s Harvest Box.”
“This action would not only destabilize attempts to bring more healthy, fresh foods into the homes of America’s food insecure, but would keep dollars out of local grocery stores and farmers markets, which are critical assets to all communities,” Jordan Rasmussen, a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, said.
According to the USDA, the government believes it will be able to deliver “America’s Harvest Box” at a lower cost than SNAP recipients’ retail food purchases and therefore, it proposes a program reduction of $129 billion for the next 10 years. These changes, along with various others, will decrease the SNAP budget by $213 billion throughout those years slashing the program by 30 percent.
Mick Mulvaney, White House OMB Director called “America’s Harvest Box” a “Blue Apron-type program” saying it was keeping up with the “modern era,” according to Politico.
While Mulvaney compared the new proposed changes to the SNAP program to high-end meal kit delivery companies like Blue Apron and its competitors, critics are calling the proposal “radical and risky,” according to Politico.
“The idea that the government could save money by distributing food itself,” Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said, “is ill-informed at best.”
Other critics are skeptical of the program changes asking “how these boxes would be customized for, say, a family that has a child with nut allergies — or for those who don’t eat certain types of meat out of religious or personal reasons,” according to Politico.
It’s still unclear how the government plans to distribute “America’s Harvest Box” to recipients who live throughout the U.S. including dense rural areas of the country. But Tim Murtaugh, USDA spokesman, said that there is flexibility in the way states choose to distribute the food boxes to their recipients, but the “projected savings does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients.”