WASHINGTON – A Trump administration proposal to save billions of dollars would substitute a box of nonperishable foods for food stamps, Politico reports. America’s Harvest Box would have “100 percent U.S. grown and produced food,” such as peanut butter, canned meats and fruits, cereal and shelf-stable milk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney called the measure a “Blue Apron-type program” designed to save the government money and give low-income families more nutritious food. The proposal would slash in half the amount of money given to families signed up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and replace it with America’s Harvest Box. The idea is tucked inside the White House’s fiscal 2019 budget.
USDA said America’s Harvest Box would realize more than $129 billion in savings over 10 years. USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh pointed out that states would be the ones to figure out how to deliver the boxes to SNAP recipients. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue labeled the boxes as “a bold, innovative approach” designed to offer SNAP recipients a similar “level of food value” at a lower cost to taxpayers. The proposal would apply to households who get at least $90 per month in SNAP benefits, which is more than 16 million households.
“This proposal focuses on ensuring that all SNAP recipients receive the nutritious food they need at substantial savings by harnessing USDA's purchasing power and America's agricultural abundance,” Murtaugh said.
But retailers challenged the assertion that the proposal would save money, arguing that having the government pack food boxes would be inefficient. “Perhaps this proposal would save money in one account, but based on our decades of experience in the program, it would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings,” said Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer with the Food Marketing Institute.
“This action would not only destabilize attempts to bring more healthy, fresh foods into the homes of America's food insecure, but would keep dollars out of local grocery stores and farmers markets, which are critical assets to all communities,” said Jordan Rasmussen, a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs.