White House proposes box deliveries to replace food stamps

Wednesday, 14 Feb, 2018

White House Office of Management & Budget head Mick Mulvaney called the proposal a "Blue Apron-type program", referencing the boxed-meal-kit company that lost $130 million in the second half of 2017.

"The section in the president's 2019 budget entitled 'Reforming the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)' certainly makes major changes, but not changes that SNAP-authorized food retailers see as positive or even efficient", said Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer at Arlington, Va. -based Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

People who receive at least $90 a month in benefits would get about half their food in the form of a "USDA Foods package".

But a government program delivering non-perishable foods at a discount bears little semblance to Blue Apron, a meal delivery service which says it only delivers farm-fresh, seasonal produce, meat with no hormones, and sustainably-sourced seafood, among other expensive and fresh foods. The "America's Harvest Box", which is what the proposed program is being called by the Department of Agriculture, would include non-perishable USA grown and produced food items such as shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, canned fruits and meats, and cereal.

According to Wells, cutting the SNAP program by a third means people will stop getting as many electronic benefits put onto their SNAP cards every month.

"It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale", Mulvaney said. The administration says it would ensure people have nutritious options as well as save billions of dollars in the long run.

The administration's 2019 budget proposal is only a request, and Congress ultimately has to approve of government spending. "I don't know where this came from, but I suspect that folks when they were drawing it up were also watching silent movies". "States will have substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships, or commercial/retail delivery services".

All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota helps supplement groceries to 65,000 people in Sarasota and DeSoto counties and many of them have food stamps.

Workers at the Weinberg food bank find the proposal impractical.

#TrumpBudget cuts for hungry families on #SNAP includes NO PLAN for delivering these so-called Harvest Boxes.

"It would impact our store in particular...sales-wise, especially on those food stamp days", said Dorsch.

The budget describes the program as a "cost-effective approach" that will "generate significant savings to taxpayers with no loss in food benefits to participants".