The Trump administration currently seeks to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by replacing approximately half of the money low-income families would receive with a “Blue Apron-type” box of food. The box would mostly be made up of canned goods.
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“What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don't want to steal somebody's copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash,” Management and budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a Monday briefing. “It lowers the cost to us because we can buy [at wholesale prices] whereas they have to buy it at retail. It also makes sure they're getting nutritious food. So we're pretty excited about that.”
This comparison drew contempt from critics, who accused the Trump administration of drawing an unfair comparison between the SNAP benefits, which averages out at $1.37 per meal to the premium meal prep service which averages out to about $10 a serving.
“With Blue Apron, you get to pick your meals and decide when they come. And it gives you all the ingredients you need to complete it,” echoed New York Times op-ed writer Bryce Covert. “Under Trump's plan, the government decides what you get and when you get it.”
On Monday, the Trump administration proposed cutting the SNAP benefits by $17 billion by 2019 and cutting over $213 billion through the next decade. These budget cut proposals came alongside other sweeping cut proposals to other safety net programs, including large cuts to Medicaid and federal housing subsidies.
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However, this proposed change to SNAP was especially staggering, as it would change the very foundation of the program. Over the part 40 years, the Agriculture Department has been distributing funds to SNAP recipients through either paper coupons or digitally through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.
With the proposed changes, these monetary benefits would be cut in half to families receiving over $90 per month (over 81 percent of recipients) and replaced with “America’s Harvest Box,” a supplementary box of non-perishable foods.
These items would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA. The department estimates that their budget could be cut in half as the government would be purchasing these goods at wholesale price, whereas the recipients would be purchasing at retail. However, there is no answer yet as to how the plan would handle recipients with food allergies or dietary restrictions, many of which could be life-threatening.
“It boggles the mind how that would play out,” said Kathy Fisher, policy director at Philadelphia’s Coalition Against Hunger. “We know SNAP works now, when people can choose what they need. How they would distribute foods to people with specialized diets, or [to people in] rural areas … It’s very expensive and very complicated.”