Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, on President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

Trump Budget Proposal Would Replace SNAP Benefits For Many With A Box Of Canned Goods

February 13, 2018

President Trump's budget contains a proposal that would drastically change food benefits for low-income Americans.

Currently, participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) receive paper or virtual coupons that can be spent at grocery stores on food items of their choosing. Under the new program, the majority of SNAP participants would get half their benefits in the form of what the Department of Agriculture is calling "America's Harvest Box" — a box of items such as canned beans, meats, and vegetables, as well as other shelf-stable products. 

In a briefing Monday, budget director Mick Mulvaney compared the new proposal to the popular meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron. But not everyone is buying it. Corby Kummer, food writer and senior editor at "The Atlantic," said the "harvest box" — which would not contain fresh fruit or vegetables — would stigmatize the SNAP program and make people who receive its benefits feel "forgotten and despised."

"This is the most stigmatizing, ugly idea," Kummer said.

"It's the government saying, in essence, you should be wearing brown burlap and wearing a scarlet 'P' for 'Poor,'" he continued.

Kummer also pointed out some of the practical hurdles the "harvest box" program would face. The cost of shipping the boxes would be significant, yet shipping costs were not factored into the savings projections associated with adopting the program. It is also unclear whether the "Blue Apron" model is a sustainable one. The company had a disappointing stock market debut in 2017 and is facing declining per-customer revenue. 

With those concerns in mind, Kummer is skeptical.

"There's absolutely no way this would work," he said.

Click the audio player above to hear more from Corby Kummer.


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