The Trump administration is proposing a drastic change to how millions of people in the USA receive food stamps by replacing cards with an equivalent cash value with a "Blue Apron-type" delivery box of food purchased by the government.
Rather than letting people on food stamps choose their own groceries, the Trump administration is proposing sending out more than 16.4 million boxes of basic food supplies every month as part of its new proposed federal budget - and will force states to cover the cost of distribution.
Under the plan, the amount of money low income families receive as part of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, would be slashed, and they would receive a product dubbed "America's Harvest Box" by the Department of Agriculture.
The "USDA America's Harvest Box" would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. "As the private partners with the government ensuring efficient redemption of SNAP benefits, retailers are looking to the administration to reduce red tape and regulations, not increase them with proposals such as this one".
The proposal at hand was tucked deep within the Trump administration's 2019 budget request released Monday. "We are committed to maintaining a strong safety net", they said, "for agricultural producers during these times of low prices and uncertain markets and continuing to improve our nation's nutrition programs".
Replacing food stamps: This had many of you talking today. Probably the River Bend Food Bank.
The plan is said to save the government money and provide families with more nutritious options than what the food stamps now provide.
Other advocates said that the food box proposal was more of a distraction from other cuts and changes in the proposed budgets, like support for additional work requirements that could make it harder for some people to be eligible for benefits. But buying food in bulk also "lowers the cost to us", said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget. The decision would be based on nutrition standards used for other programs including the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Critics say allegations of fraud are overblown - the current trafficking rate is roughly 1 percent, and more than half of participants are kids, elderly and disabled people who need the help. "The proposal to cut SNAP is deeply troubling", said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, on Tuesday.