The White House has proposed a plan that includes a meal-kit program similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh as an option for those collecting food stamps.
In an effort to cut costs and help low income families eat more nutritious meals, the Trump Administration is proposing the introduction of the “Harvest Box,” which would be a delivery of “nutritious, U.S.-grown and produced food.”
“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,” said Sonny Perdue, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.)
Those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that are receiving more than $90 a month in benefits would get the box, along with about half of the aid they used to get on their electronic benefits card (EBT.)
The USDA estimates that of the 6.4 million households receiving SNAP benefits, 80% of those enrolled would be impacted by the new policy.
The agency also said that the states would determine what food suppliers to include in the boxes, along with how to distribute and regulate them.
The White House is aiming to cut the SNAP budget by $17 billion in 2019 and $213 billion over the next ten years. The USDA expects the Harvest box to help save the government $129.2 billion over a ten-year period.
“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,” said Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget Director. “It lowers the cost to us because we can buy [at wholesale prices] whereas they have to buy it at retail. It also makes sure they’re getting nutritious food. So we’re pretty excited about that.”
Not everyone is on board with the idea for a few reasons.
“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 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“With Blue Apron, you get to pick your meals and decide when they come. And it gives you all the ingredients you need to complete it,” said Bryce Covert, New York Times op-ed writer. “Under Trump’s plan, the government decides what you get and when you get it.”
Some believe it could be a logistical nightmare.
“It boggles the mind how that would play out,” said Kathy Fisher, policy director at Philadelphia’s Coalition Against Hunger. “We know SNAP works now, when people can choose what they need. How they would distribute foods to people with specialized diets, or [to people in] rural areas. … It’s very expensive and very complicated.”
Not to mention, big retailers like Walmart and Aldi will lose half their business from food stamps.
Nonetheless, it’s a clever program that could improve corruption in the current system.
The meal-kit program was also included in the Trump administration’s second budget proposal, which will be difficult to pass in both the House and the Senate.
Author’s note: This does seem like somewhat of a hassle to execute, but the Harvest Box program is at least innovative. The current food stamp system is plagued with corruption and desperately needs to be revamped.