The Trump administration proposed Monday to have the Department of Agriculture prepare and send packages of food directly to low-income families, replacing a portion of their food stamp benefits.
The proposal, new in the White House fiscal 2019 budget, is for families to receive some 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.”
Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney called it a "Blue Apron-type program" Monday afternoon, comparing it to the meal kit service. The government would save money on the box, he said, because it could buy the food items wholesale, whereas typically food stamp recipients have to buy food at retail prices.
The package would replace a portion of traditional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for families receiving more than $90 in benefits a month as a way of saving money, increasing the nutritional value of benefits, and cracking down on fraud.
The broader budget document, which is a proposal from the White House to Congress, calls for reducing SNAP or food stamp spending by more than $200 billion over the next 10 years. The government spent $64 billion on SNAP benefits in 2017.
The Office of Management and Budget argued for reduced spending on the grounds that the food stamp program hasn’t shrunk as quickly as the economy has grown after the recession. Some conservatives have argued that the program is serving as a form of indirect welfare spending, rather than nutritional assistance, and is discouraging work.
The package would be filled with “100 percent American grown food” and shipped directly to recipients, according to the budget documents.
The idea is referred to as "America's Harvest Box," said Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a statement, calling it "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."
The agency said that the concept would be for more than 80 percent of SNAP beneficiaries to get a box and for beneficiaries ultimately to get half their benefits in the form of the food in the package.