Update, March 11, 2019: In a mostly “symbolic” budget proposal released today, the Trump administration is still pushing its “Harvest Box” proposal, which would replace a portion of recipients’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits with a monthly box of non-perishable goods. As the Huffington Post reports, the proposal claims the box would “significantly reduc[e] the cost to taxpayers,” though provides no actual information as to how shipping a box of government-selected canned goods to millions of people would be at all cost-saving. The budget proposal also includes work requirements for those receiving SNAP benefits, Medicaid, and housing assistance.
Trump’s new budget proposal includes major cuts to the nation’s food stamp program, (now known as SNAP). POTUS wants to slash cash payments to program recipients, replacing them in part with “a package of U.S.-grown commodities” like meat, poultry, milk, peanut butter, and cereal,” the Washington Post reports. The cuts would add up to more than $200 billion over the next decade.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney referred to the boxes of food staples as a “Blue Apron-type program,” according to Politico, referring to the meal kit company that has suffered from a woefully underperforming IPO and a decline in customers in recent months. In the budget proposal, the hypothetical food distribution is called “USDA America’s Harvest Box” — a somewhat eyebrow-raising name since it would include canned fruit and vegetables, not fresh.
The program changes would affect food stamp recipients who receive $90 or more in benefits a month. Per the Post, more than 42 million Americans are covered under SNAP, receiving an average of $125 in benefits a month. Under the proposed changes, about half of a recipient’s benefits would come in the form of food, rather than cash.
Under the current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, qualifying low-income recipients receive a monthly stipend on a debit card, which can be used to purchase food at grocery stores and other participating retailers. This gives program recipients more or less total autonomy over what to purchase with their benefits; the only items that are excluded are things like tobacco, alcohol, and vitamins, and prepared foods.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the proposed program shift “a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families.” Meanwhile, Stacy Dean, president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tells the Post, “This budget proposes taking away food assistance from millions of low-income Americans — and on the heels of a tax cut that favored the wealthy and corporations.”
Trump’s budget proposal also includes major cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Section 8 housing assistance, and a massive slashing of the Environmental Protection Agency budget. Meanwhile, it would boost defense spending by nearly $800 billion over the next decade.