The Trump administration is proposing to save billions in the coming years by giving low-income families a box of government-picked, nonperishable foods every month instead of food stamps.
White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday hailed the idea as one that kept up with the modern era, calling it a “Blue Apron-type program” — a nod to the high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers. Mulvaney said the administration’s plan would not only save the government money, but also provide people with more nutritious food than they have now.
The proposal, buried in the White House’s fiscal 2019 budget, would replace about half of the money most families receive via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, with what the Department of Agriculture is calling “America’s Harvest Box.” That package would be made up of “100 percent U.S. grown and produced food” and would include items like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, canned fruits and meats, and cereal.
The program would be a vast logistical undertaking for a federal bureaucracy that President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized as unwieldy and wasteful. The White House said the new boxes would go to households qualifying for $90 or more per month in food stamps, representing about 81 percent of those participating in what is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Currently, SNAP recipients can choose what they spend the money on while shopping at any approved retailer.
The proposal drew swift opposition from many fronts – including the $840 billion supermarket industry, where food stamps drive 7.5 percent of sales, according to Customer Growth Partners. The firm estimated that Walmart alone reaps more than one-fifth of all food stamp sales.
“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,” FMI chief public policy officer Jennifer Hatcher said. “Retailers are looking to the administration to reduce red tape and regulations, not increase them with proposals such as this one.”
It was obvious that Republicans would eventually pivot from “$1.5 trillion tax cut? No problem” to “Eek! Deficits! Must cut Medicare and food stamps!” But even I didn’t think it would take less than 2 months https://t.co/VTPYW1ATnR
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) February 13, 2018
Proposing that we cut food stamps and ship a box of government canned goods to poor families to save money right after they pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy is so vulgar and obvious I don’t know what to say.
— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) February 13, 2018
Trump’s budget provides more massive tax giveaways for the rich. In exchange, here are some programs that get huge cuts:
Non-defense discretionary: 42.3%
National Science Foundation: 29.5%
State Department: 26.9%
Food stamps: 27.4%
Section 8: 20.1%
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) February 13, 2018