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Trump Budget Proposes Food Boxes To Replace Food Stamps

by Countable | 2.13.18

What’s the story?

In the president’s budget released Monday, 80 percent of food stamp, or SNAP, recipients would receive half their monthly allotment of benefits in the form of prescribed and pre-packaged, non-perishable food boxes, rather than being able to choose what they buy within existing guidelines.

The budget was short on details of how such boxes would be assembled and distributed to the 16 million Americans who would receive them, especially those in isolated, rural areas. It simply gives states "substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships or commercial/retail delivery services."

The federal government does currently distribute commodities to 600,000 elderly individuals via the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The foods are shipped in bulk to food banks and then repackaged for distribution. The proposed program would eliminate this program and scale up delivery of food by nearly 300 percent.

The administration argues that the program, which they describe as similar to meal delivery programs such as Blue Apron, would save the federal government $129 billion over ten years. Overall, the budget proposes a $213 billion cut to the SNAP program over ten years, or a 30 percent reduction in budget.

Critics, including the grocery industry and hunger advocates, maintain that any cost savings would be outpaced by the administrative overhead involved in developing such a huge distribution network. They also refer to the proposal as a "Big Government" answer, as opposed to the “free market model” currently in place.

Though Congress may ignore the president’s proposal, 2018 is the year that a new Farm Bill will be formulated. Food stamps and other nutrition programs make up 80 percent of the USDA’s expenditures, per NPR, totalling approximately $70.9 billion a year. Expect discussion of SNAP and other hunger programs to hit the headlines repeatedly as Farm Bill negotiations ramp up.

The House and Senate agriculture committees will lead those discussions.

What do you think?

Do you think the administration is on to something, or is the idea unrealistic? Given the amount of money the federal government spends on hunger programs, does the existing system make sense? What would you suggest to create cost savings? Do you think cost savings is something the government should even be thinking about when discussing combating hunger?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

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