According to NPR:
The Trump administration is proposing a major shake-up in one of the country’s most important “safety net” programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the proposal, most SNAP recipients would lose much of their ability to choose the food they buy with their SNAP benefits.
The proposal is included in the Trump administration budget request for fiscal year 2019. It would require approval from Congress.
Under the proposal, which was announced Monday, low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month — just over 80 percent of all SNAP recipients — would get about half of their benefits in the form of a “USDA Foods package.” The package was described in the budget as consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.” The boxes would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.
From what I have read so far, half of the month benefits would still be available on the recipient’s EBT card, but the other half would consist of actual foodstuffs, such as shelf-stable milk, cereal, peanut butter, canned fruit and vegetables, and meat/fish. These USDA packages are called America’s Harvest Boxes. All of the food will be sourced in the United States, the production of American farmers.
The USDA believes that state governments will be able to deliver this food at much less cost than SNAP recipients currently pay for food at retail stores — thus reducing the overall cost of the SNAP program by $129 billion over the next 10 years.
This and other changes in the SNAP program, will reduce the SNAP budget by $213 billion over those years — cutting the program by almost 30 percent.
According to the USDA, potential models for the infrastructure are programs that are already in place, such as the National School Lunch Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian reservations. The actual deliver system will be left up to the individual states, using their existing infrastructure.
Naturally, retailers are already complaining, as they see it as a threat to their sales, and claiming that it will undermine efforts to deliver benefits to SNAP recipients.
Of course, “advocacy” groups are opposed, and showing a strange opposition to government bureaucracy and “intrusive” government intervention. It seems that they have found a new appreciation of the free market, at least as they define it:
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a hunger advocacy group that also helps clients access food-assistance services, said the administration’s plan left him baffled. “They have managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices,” Berg says.
He says SNAP is efficient because it is a “free market model” that lets recipients shop at stores for their benefits. The Trump administration’s proposal, he said, “is a far more intrusive, Big Government answer. They think a bureaucrat in D.C. is better at picking out what your family needs than you are?”
A comment I saw on Facebook says,
“Because some people on food stamps are poor but conscientious, choose healthful food carefully and prepare it themselves, and don’t want the government choosing food for them that is inferior to their accustomed diet. I have such a friend, and have had one or two others.”
My answer to her?
“The proposal only suggests that half of the monthly allotment would be made up of pre-packaged food. Your friend could use the other half to make her choices. Hey, it’s free. If the government wanted to give me free food I would be grateful, not critical.”
What do you think?
As of last November, about 41.7 million individuals in 20.8 million households were SNAP beneficiaries, at a cost of 5.3 billion dollars, or approximately $256 per household.