Trump's Blue Apron-style plan to replace food stamps savaged online

Frederick Owens
February 14, 2018

Keeping the US Postal Service afloat is already a hard task, let alone asking the US Department of Agriculture to develop and oversee a plan that would routinely deliver millions of low-income families food packages in every state of the country.

The box would cut the current monthly monetary SNAP component in half, leaving the remaining funds to be spent as the recipient sees fit.

But the administration's SNAP proposal was particularly striking, advocates and experts said, because it advocates a fundamental change to the program's administration. It would require approval from Congress.

Instead, lower-income families who get more than $90 in SNAP benefits a month would receive something called "America's Harvest Box", items such as canned meat, noodles, juice and shelf-stable milk that the government would buy at wholesale prices.

The packages recipients would be given would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.

The administration says the move is a "cost-effective approach" with "no loss in food benefits to participants".

Cuts to food snaps and other programs like it typically face a tough fight and could be removed by the agriculture committees, who typically take up any changes to the program in the Farm Bill that is reauthorized every five years.

Opponents to the president's plan believe canned and boxed food is not as healthy as fresh food that can be purchased with food stamps at grocery stores.

Indeed, issues such as allergies, bowel difficulties, and even simple preferences would invariably make the program a hard sell to food stamp recipients, much less to state governments that would have to implement such an initiative.

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The Trump Administration says this would be beneficial to the people it would impact across the nation. He says "the budget seems to assume that participating in SNAP is a character flaw".

The agency estimates that 16.4 million households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -about 81 percent of SNAP enrollees-would be affected by this policy.

The USDA says the delivered food would be nutritious and 100 percent US grown and produced.

Lori Ladas, executive director of Rocky Mountain Development Council in Helena, said the proposal also includes eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, a weatherization program and the Community Services Block Grant, or CSBG.

Under the full-scale redesign, the Agriculture Department would use a portion of those benefits to buy and deliver a package of USA -grown commodities - officially dubbed "America's Harvest Box" - to recipients, using the government's buying power to lower costs.

President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for funding cuts that have the Iowa agencies responsible for feeding the hungry feeling concerned. The idea that the government could save money by distributing food itself, she said, is "ill-informed at best". "We know SNAP works now, when people can choose what they need".

In a statement, Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, described the proposal as a "a Rube-Goldberg designed system of commodity distribution via food boxes". The reality according to the Census Bureau is that 1.5 million low income veterans depend on SNAP for food assistance.

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at the 99th annual American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville, Tenn., on January 8, 2018. Sonny Perdue said in a release. That represents more than 80 percent of the program's recipients.

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