Trump wants to replace some SNAP benefits with food box

Posted at 7:27 PM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-13 14:35:50-05

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - President Donald Trump's administration wants to replace half of SNAP recipients' monthly cash benefits with a box of food. 

The proposal would affect 38 million people. The people affected are households that receive at least $90 a month in assistance, or 81 percent of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

The box, coined as "USDA America's Harvest Box," would include food grown by American farmers including milk, juice, cereals, pasta, canned produce, and more, according to the administration's proposal.

The box would cut the current monthly monetary SNAP component in half, leaving the remaining funds to be spent as the recipient sees fit. 

The White House said the plan would save the U.S. nearly $130 billion over 10 years, and reduce the potential for EBT fraud.

It is unclear how these boxes would be distributed. 

"I just got off food stamps,” Anthony Burke said.

Burke spent the last three years on SNAP, and Tuesday was his last day with the program. He received electronic benefits each month on a card.

He was surprised to learn about the food box proposal.

"It's going to be a hard decision with people making a decision on my food,” Burke said.

Registered dietitian Alaina Ward said there are positive aspects to the proposed changes. She likes that replacing benefits with an actual box of food limits access to junk food.

"The beans are a great source of fiber protein, the peanut butter,” Ward said. “Once again, you're getting in some protein."

However, she said having no fresh fruits and vegetables in the box, as well as recipients not being able to choose what goes into their own, concerns her.

"Some of the foods that were available probably did need to be modified and looked over,” Ward said. “I don't know if this is the best route, but yes I think it's a positive change."

The proposal has drawn swift opposition from the supermarket industry.

One Mid-South Food Bank employee also said this could mean more people turning to the agency to help make ends meet

"The first thing that jumped out was the huge cut,” said Marcia Wells, who works at the Mid-South Food Bank.  

Banks said she’s angered by the Trump administration's proposed $213 billion cut to SNAP.

"SNAP benefits or food stamps as they are called are the number one feeding program in America,” Wells said. “That helps millions of people every year get the nutrition they need.”

The food bank helps feed about 200,000 people across the Mid-South who are food insecure, which means they do not know when they'll eat again.

According to Wells, cutting the SNAP program by a third means people will stop getting as many electronic benefits put onto their SNAP cards every month.

She said they will start knocking on her agency's door to help feed themselves and their families, stretching already strained resources even thinner.

"So if this starts to be phased out that's going to put a greater strain on our resources, because when people can't get those benefits, they are going to come to our partner agencies because people still have to get their nutrition,” Wells said. "It all depends on how it shakes out." 

How it all works out is yet to be seen. Congressman Steve Cohen said the proposed changes to the SNAP program are both impractical and cruel.

WMC reached out to several Mid-South Republicans for their input. One said he was still reading over the proposal before commenting.

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