The Trump administration has announced plans for a “food box” program that they are attempting to compare with Blue Apron style food subscription services.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, revealed on Monday that the plan would be created with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mulvaney called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) redesign as “America’s Harvest Box.”
Under the plan, more than 16 million households would see half of their benefits go toward the food box delivery program.
“What we do is propose that, for folks who are on food stamps — part, not all — part of their benefits come in the actual sort of — and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright — but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receiving the cash,” Mulvaney said.
Blue Apron sells plans to customers starting at $10 per meal with a minimum of three meals per week being delivered. Blue Apron customers receive two servings of each meal at a minimum cost of $60. In comparison, Trump’s program would aim to serve families for less than $2 per meal.
In New York, a family of four receives Blue Apron meals at a cost of about $140 per month for a base plan. Those meals include steak, beef, chicken, side salads, and much more.
The current SNAP program provides food stamp recipients with a debit card which allows them to choose which foods to buy with strict rules on items that can be purchased.
Trump Plans To Gut Supplemental Food Programs
The new program was announced as Trump’s budget called for gutting SNAP to the tune of $17.2 billion in 2019 or 22% while removing $129.2 billion worth of benefits over the next 10 years. The program slashes were announced after Trump provided corporate tax savings of more than $1.2 trillion annually.
Attempting to trumpet in the administration’s program, Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary, called the new proposal a “bold, innovative approach,” while announcing that food from the program would be produced in the United States.
“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,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mulvaney says the program would help lower costs by removing half of the plan’s costs from third-party grocers.
Democrats Are Fighting Back
“It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale, whereas they have to buy it at retail,” Mulvaney said. “It also makes sure that they’re getting nutritious food. So we’re pretty excited about that. That’s a tremendous cost savings.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the plan was “outrageous” and “a cruel joke”
#TrumpBudget cuts for hungry families on #SNAP includes NO PLAN for delivering these so-called Harvest Boxes. Rural families may be forced to drive long distances & wait in long lines just to get these paltry boxes.
This sounds like something from the Great Depression, not 2018. pic.twitter.com/JgCSQMAyWw
— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) February 13, 2018
Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., believes the program is “unrealistic” and will be expensive to implement. Adams is no stranger to the SNAP program, having personally used its services while raising her children.
Issues Are Likely To Surface With The Program Quickly
The program doesn’t address many of the logistical issues that would likely arise. For example, how would such a program address dietary restrictions that will arise for many families?
The program could also face steep costs when delivering to rural areas.
The Trump administration also hasn’t addressed theft issues likely to arise in poor areas where food would be left on doorsteps while recipients are at work. If the program relies on a pickup style service, the administration would need to setup thousands of locations to ensure the poor could collect the food without paying for travel.
The full program has not been fully vetted by third-party bipartisan organizations and is likely to face fierce pushback against Democrat leaders.
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