Food Stamps

Trump pitches plan to replace food stamps with food boxes

from Politico,

The Trump administration is proposing to save billions in the coming years by giving low-income families a box of government-picked, nonperishable foods every month instead of food stamps. White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday hailed the idea as one that kept up with the modern era, calling it a "Blue Apron-type program" — a nod to the high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers. Mulvaney said the administration’s plan would not only save the government money, but also provide people with more nutritious food than they have now.

Asked about how delivery would work, USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh clarified that states would “have flexibility” in how they choose to distribute the food to SNAP recipients.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised the harvest box plan as “a bold, innovative approach” that would give SNAP participants the same “level of food value” as the current system while saving taxpayers money.

Numerous questions remain, such as how these boxes would be customized for, say, a family that has a child with nut allergies — or for those who don't eat certain types of meat out of religious or personal reasons. The proposal was so out of left field that some anti-hunger advocates initially thought it was a joke. Kevin Concannon, who oversaw SNAP during the Obama administration, was aghast when he saw the proposal. “Holy mackerel," said Concannon, who said it reminded him of when poor people had to line up and wait for local officials to dole out food and other welfare benefits.

Other anti-hunger advocates said the concept was reminiscent of wartime rations or soup lines during the Great Depression. The Food Research and Action Center, a prominent nonprofit group, called the harvest box idea “a Rube-Goldberg designed system” that would be “costly, inefficient, stigmatizing, and prone to failure.”

Administration officials pointed out that USDA already distributes commodities. Currently, such food items are largely shipped to schools, food banks and other organizations — which in turn distribute the food to those who need it. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, for example, sends boxes of food to some 600,000 low-income elderly with the help of food banks and other nonprofits. The fiscal 2019 budget seeks to eliminate that program and combine it with the harvest box program.

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