The Trump administration wants to overhaul the longstanding food stamp program, replacing it with a box of canned goods that it has likened to Blue Apron, a high-end meal kit service.
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney explained that “part” of food stamp recipients’ benefits would “come in…a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash.”
The proposal, called “America’s Harvest Box,” would reportedly contain “homegrown” products, sourced from American farmers and producers. Shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, canned fruit and vegetables are among the items that would be included in the box.
The box would be worth approximately half of a SNAP recipient’s monthly benefit. The rest of their benefits would be provided on electronic benefit cards as they are currently.
Mulvaney claimed that the change would allow the government to save nearly $130 billion over 10 years, as it would lower government costs because it could buy the products at wholesale prices.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted that the box would maintain “the same level of food value as SNAP participants currently receive,” calling it a “bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families.”
Critics, however, called into question nearly every element of the underdeveloped plan. Some questioned the extent to the savings to the government, while others worried that families would lose agency in choosing what items they receive—particularly important for those suffering, say, from nut allergies. Others questioned how the boxes would be delivered, while some simply pointed to the effects it would have on retailers who receive billions from SNAP beneficiaries each year.
The proposal would affect those who currently receive at least $90 a month in food stamps, which is 81% of SNAP recipients, or more than 16 million households.