Big changes could be coming to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Trump administration said it wants to overhaul the food stamp program, in part by sending recipients their food in boxes. The White House said the proposal would save taxpayers millions in fraud and abuse but local critics say the president’s proposal would hurt the hungry.
Think of it as the Blue-Apron for the poor. A box of food delivered to a SNAP recipients front door. The administration said it would save the United States $213 billion over the course of 10 years.
It would affect households that receive at least $90 a month in food stamps, or roughly 38 million people.
“USDA America’s Harvest Box is a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families — and all of it is homegrown by American farmers and producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a statement. “It maintains the same level of food value as SNAP participants currently receive, provides states flexibility in administering the program, and is responsible to the taxpayers.”
But recipients and people hoping to receive those benefits see it differently.
“I’m not happy with it,” said Starla Emery. “My little guy, he’s a picky eater.”
Emery is a single mother in the Mid-South who is currently waiting approval of her SNAP application.
“I applied in December,” she said. “I heard about the possible changes this morning. What they’re providing my son won’t eat.”
Emery said recipients should be able to pick and choose what they can buy for their families.
Under the proposal, instead of receiving all of their food stamp funds, households would get a box of food. The food would be valued at about half of SNAP recipients monthly benefit. The rest, clients would receive on a debit card.
“I thought to myself this is devastating. It a $213 billion dollar cut to a vital program,” said Mid-South Food Bank communications director Marcia Wells. “They’re talking about delivering. Who’s going to do that? All it says it that the states will take care of that.”
The administration has not set forth details on how the so called “America’s Harvest Box” would be delivered.
Other consumer advocates also question how the federal government could save money by purchasing and distributing food on its own. Many are concerned families would not know what food they would get in advance. They also fear it would be difficult for families to pick up a box of food if they don’t have a car.
“We’re already doing that here,” said Wells. “Volunteers pack boxes for those in need.”
Wells fears any cut to the SNAP program would but greater stress on non-profits already struggling to help the hungry.
“Any time we see a reduction in benefits, we see a greater demand on our services,” she said. “You can’t food bank your way out of poverty. People need to eat and we need to be able to serve as many people as possible.”
Local 24 reached out to The Tennessee Department of Human Services for comment on the proposal.
“The Tennessee Department of Human Services is closely monitoring the President’s budget proposal as it relates to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” said DHS press secretary Sky Arnold. “In the meantime, we will continue working with the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure the nearly one million SNAP recipients in Tennessee have access to nutritional assistance through the program.”