The Trump administration is proposing a major shake-up in one of the country’s most important “safety net” programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the proposal, most SNAP recipients would lose much of their ability to choose the food they buy with their SNAP benefits.
The proposal is included in the Trump administration budget request for fiscal year 2019. It would require approval from Congress.
Under the proposal, which was announced Monday, low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month — just over 80 percent of all SNAP recipients — would get about half of their benefits in the form of a “USDA Foods package.” The package was described in the budget as consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.” The boxes would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.
I’m not even sure what to say. No fruits or vegetables? This is beyond stupid. I have questions. Fortunately, Annie Lowery asked them first:
1. What if you don’t receive your box one month?
2. What if you’re homeless?
3. What if you don’t have a place to receive mail?
4. What if you move frequently?
5. What if you have allergies?
6. What if the box gets wet, or animals get into it?
7. What if your kid is a fussy eater?
8. What if you’re a fussy eater?
9. What about the end of the month?
10. Will the value be the same?
11. What about the stores in your town?
12. What about fresh fruits and veggies?
13. What if you don’t have electricity or gas to cook?
15. No, really, why? What problem does this solve?
16. Is the value of the box the same as the value of the SNAP?
17. Okay, but isn’t the value of the box lower, given fungibility and all that?
18. Did folks on SNAP ask for this?
19. Did anti-hunger advocates?
29. What’s the overhead cost?
30. What role do states have in SNAP?
31. Should states be able to opt out?
32. Should families be able to opt out?
33. Any pilots of this program? Anywhere?
34. Have you looked at studies of ration systems?
35. What’s more important: cost or calories?
36. Are you going to aim for a calorie count?
37. Any sense of the direct impact on nutrition?
38. Any doctors consulted on the nutrition impact?
39. Anything else in the box other than food?
44. Should there be religious exemptions?
45. How about cultural exemptions? Should all people have to eat the same food?
46. Should the boxes be the same regionally? What about location-based cost differentials?
47. Have you tried a box yourself?
There’s more at the link.
And who thinks this would be cost effective? Will these boxes be delivered, or will they have to be picked up? What if you don’t have a car… or a home? (And you’d need a car for a box that contains a months worth of food.) This is a logistical nightmare.
What if your box is stolen off your porch/hallway?
Here’s another question: “It isn’t clear whether the boxes will come with directions on how to cook the foods inside. “It could be something that [SNAP recipients] don’t even know how to make,” notes Miguelina Diaz, whose team at Hunger Free America works directly with families to help them access food aid. “We deal with different people of different backgrounds. Limiting them by providing them a staple box would limit the choices of food they can prepare for their families.”
They have not thought this through. And just like everything else with Trump and Co., this will end up costing more and offering less.
Also… shelf stable milk? No. Just no.