The Trump administration is proposing a major shake-up in one of the country's most important "safety net" programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the proposal, most SNAP recipients would lose much of their ability to choose the food they buy with their SNAP benefits.
Do you think before today that this poverty pimp has ever been concerned about the bureaucracy of any government program?Under the proposal, which was announced Monday, low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month – just over 80 percent of all SNAP recipients – would get about half of their benefits in the form of a "USDA Foods package." The package was described in the budget as consisting of "shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans[,] and canned fruit and vegetables."Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a hunger advocacy group that also helps clients access food-assistance services, said the administration's plan left him baffled. "They have managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices," Berg says.
He says SNAP is efficient because it is a "free market model" that lets recipients shop at stores for their benefits. The Trump administration's proposal, he said, "is a far more intrusive, Big Government answer. They think a bureaucrat in D.C. is better at picking out what your family needs than you are?"
Douglas Greenaway, president of the National WIC Association, echoed that sentiment. "Removing choice from SNAP flies in the face of encouraging personal responsibility," he said. He says "the budget seems to assume that participating in SNAP is a character flaw."
Critics of the proposal said distributing that much food presents a logistical nightmare. "Among the problems, it's going to be costly and take money out of the [SNAP] program from the administrative side. It's going to stigmatize people when they have to go to certain places to pick up benefits," says Jim Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center.
Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, called the proposal "radical and risky."
It isn't clear whether the boxes will come with directions on how to cook the foods inside. "It could be something that [SNAP recipients] don't even know how to make," notes Miguelina Diaz, whose team at Hunger Free America works directly with families to help them access food aid.