Trump Administration Proposes ‘Blue Apron-Style’ Program to Deliver Food to SNAP Recipients
The Trump administration proposed a plan that would deliver food items to food stamp recipients as part of their benefits package.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted that under the plan, which is included in the 2019 budget, those receiving more than $90 a month in benefits would receive “nutritious, U.S.-grown and produced food” in a “Harvest Box” that would make up half of a recipient’s allotted benefits for the month. The rest of the benefits would be placed on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for use at grocery stores as is allowed under the current SNAP system.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney described the Trump administration’s “Harvest Box” proposal as a “Blue Apron-style program” where recipients receive food instead of cash vouchers.
The agency estimates that 16.4 million households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) —about 81 percent of SNAP enrollees—would be affected by this policy.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement:
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. It maintains the same level of food value as SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] participants currently receive, provides states flexibility in administering the program, and is responsible to the taxpayers.
The USDA estimates that the proposal would save $129.2 billion over a period of ten years, would decrease food stamp fraud, and would enhance the nutrition content of the program.
Some food policy advocates questioned whether the Trump administration’s proposal would save the government money if the government were in charge of handling distribution, and expressed concern over how much choice SNAP recipients would have in what types of food they would receive.
“It’s a risky scheme that threatens families’ ability to put food on the table,” said Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
A spokesperson for the agency told Breitbart News that individual states would determine what food suppliers to use for the boxes, how the food is distributed, and would be able to “regulate specific contents of the boxes.” The USDA spokesperson did not specify, however, whether recipients would have any choice in what is placed in the boxes.
The “Harvest Box” idea is based on an existing program known as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which utilizes local agencies and nonprofits to help distribute food boxes to “low-income elderly persons” who are at least 60-years-old. The program began under the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973, which the Nixon administration authorized.
USDA America’s Harvest Box
Under the USDA America’s Harvest Box proposal, all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participating households receiving $90 per month or more in benefits will receive a package of nutritious, 100-percent U.S. grown and produced food. Approximately 16.4 million households, or about 81 percent of SNAP households would be impacted by this proposal.
The amount of food received per household would be scaled to the overall size of the household’s SNAP allotment, ultimately representing about half of their benefits. SNAP participants would receive domestically-sourced and produced food in lieu of a portion of their SNAP benefits.
USDA would utilize a model similar to that currently used to distribute USDA Foods to other nutrition assistance programs to provide staple, shelf-stable foods (such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-eat-cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables) to SNAP households at approximately half the retail cost.
This proposal creates a new approach to nutrition assistance that combines retail-based SNAP benefits with delivery of USDA America’s Harvest Boxes supporting the President’s leadership on Buy American. This proposal is cost-effective, enhances the integrity of SNAP, and provides for states’ flexibility in administration of the program.
The remainder of the household’s benefits will still be provided via the current Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
This proposal would save $129.2 billion over the ten-year period between Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and FY 2028. This estimate accounts for about $2.5 billion annually in additional administrative funds for states.
USDA currently purchases a wide variety of food for several nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
States will be given substantial flexibility to distribute these food benefits to participants. States can distribute these boxes through existing infrastructure, partnerships, and/or directly to residences through commercial and/or retail delivery services.