President Trump's budget proposal includes a change that would send food stamp recipients boxes of food as part of their benefits.
President Donald Trump's new fiscal year 2019 budget includes a radical proposed change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, typically referred to as food stamps, that would see part of the program turn into a meal-delivery service.
As part of the budget, the Department of Agriculture — which runs the SNAP program — would send basic food items to households receiving more than $90 a month in SNAP assistance in boxes.
"Under the proposal, households receiving $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits will receive a portion of their benefits in the form of a USDA Foods package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish," the budget reads.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the program would send food boxes to 16.4 million households, representing 81% of SNAP households. The boxes would account for half of the benefits for the household and the rest would be put on their Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
It is unclear whether the boxes would contain ingredients to be cooked, like meal-delivery kits from companies like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, or contain fully cooked foods. According to the proposal states would be allowed to determine the method of delivery "through existing infrastructure, partnerships, and/or directly to residences through commercial and/or retail delivery services."
While its unclear exactly how states would choose to distribute the items, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called the new boxes a "Blue Apron-type program," referring to the popular meal-kit company.
"We thought it was a tremendous idea so what we do is propose that, for folks who are on food stamps — part, not all — part of their benefits come in the actually 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 receive the cash," Mulvaney said at a briefing on Monday.
In Contrast to Blue Apron, the USDA boxes would have "shelf-stable" foods meaning that the produce and meats would not be fresh and come in non-perishable form like cans.
According the Department of Agriculture, the program would save $129.2 billion from the SNAP program compared to the current baseline over the next 10 years.
The budget says that the USDA Foods package will ensure that all food is sourced in the US and sets a standard nutritional value for recipients.
"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 home grown by American farmers and
producers," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. "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."
The Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit working to end hunger in the US, blasted the proposal.
The new boxes will be "a Rube-Goldberg designed system of commodity distribution via food boxes that will be administratively costly, inefficient, stigmatizing, and prone to failure, and that will return the country to Depression-era anti-hunger approaches," said the group in a statement.