Yesterday, the Trump administration released its proposed budget for FY 2019. The included 2019 SNAP budget proposal, if adopted, would make major structural changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. In addition to deep cuts and changes to eligibility requirements, the administration proposes replacing half the monthly EBT allotment with a distribution of prepackaged foods. According to an NPR article on the SNAP budget proposal,

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.” The boxes would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.

The president's proposed budget, released yesterday, wants to make some major changes to the way SNAP works. Among other…

Posted by Worcester Food Policy Council on Tuesday, February 13, 2018

As noted in the proposed article, any individual or family that receives at least $90 in SNAP benefits would see half of those benefits replaced with a box of food chosen for them by the federal government. The budget proposal contains few details about how the distribution would be accomplished, but the most likely scenario is troublesome for a number of reasons. In addition to removing the individuals’ choice – something that probably makes any authoritarian heart beat a little faster – it could have far-reaching economic and health consequences for individuals, small farmers, and local communities.

Currently, each SNAP household receives an electronic benefits card. Each month, the monthly allotment of food stamps, which varies according to family income, is loaded to the EBT card once a month. Recipients then use the card at local grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, and some farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs. Research shows that every dollar of SNAP benefits distributed generates about $1.79 in economic benefit, much of it in the local community. That’s why the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – more popularly known as the Stimulus Bill – included an increase to SNAP benefits across the board.

What’s Wrong with the 2019 SNAP Budget Proposal

The NPR article goes into some detail about the effects of the proposed 2019 SNAP budget proposal on individuals and families. In a nutshell, distributing food instead of “money”

  • increases bureaucracy and overhead administration costs, which reduces the amount of money available for benefits
  • limits the choice of foods that recipients can prepare for their families
  • increases stigma on households receiving aid
  • forces households to go to designated distribution points to pick up food
  • requires dedicated infrastructure – including transportation, warehousing and distribution

The proposed “food box” reverses many positive changes that have been won over the past few years, most notably through programs like HIP – the Healthy Incentives Program. These programs offer an increase in SNAP benefits that’s tied to increasing purchases and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and locally sourced meats and other food items. Eating more fresh produce is positively linked to better health outcomes. The Trump administration’s food box proposal reduces the amount of benefits that can be spent on healthier, local options, and instead substitutes canned fruits and vegetables. While the most recent research suggests that fresh fruit and vegetables are as nutritious as canned fruits and vegetables, the devil is in the details. Nearly every study includes a caution about the amount of added sodium or sugar in canned foods. The nutritional value of the food distributed in these food boxes will be entirely dependent on those little details.

Who Wins in the 2019 SNAP Budget Proposal

It’s hard to say who will benefit financially from the budget proposal becase the article glosses over a few important points. The proposal is noticeably light on details that would tell us how it will be carried out. That’s a deliberate choice – the administration cites giving states “substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships or commercial/retail delivery services.” What exactly does that mean?

If you pick that statement apart, tt looks a great deal like money going into the hands of large commercial food producers, food service delivery companies, and trucking companies instead of the hands of local farmers and local retailers. It looks like cutting in half the EBT benefits that accrue to local retailers – remember, when SNAP recipients spend their money at a grocery store, it increases the profits of that store and helps keep local people employed. It looks like states buying canned, dried and processed foods from processors and distributing them to individuals rather than allowing individuals to purchase their foods from local producers. Names like Sysco and Aramark – two of the largest commercial food service companies – come immediately to mind. Why wouldn’t state procurers, faced with the sudden requirement to distribute food to SNAP participants – turn to companies that have the proven capacity and ability to procure, process and deliver large amounts of canned, dried and processed foods?

The Farm Bill and SNAP Budget

The NPR article notes that many of the experts they spoke to are skeptical about the chances of the 2019 SNAP budget proposal being enacted. Congress largely ignored the administration’s proposal last year, they point out. It’s important to remember that this year, Congress is debating and renewing the Farm Bill, which largely funds SNAP. Your elected representatives need to hear from you about how important it is to keep SNAP strong, not only for the individuals who rely on it to feed their families more nutritious food, but for the local community as a whole.


10 replies added

  1. Sondra August 9, 2018 Reply

    This is wrong I judge no one I think the people doing this needs to put there selves in poor people’s shoes. We all should have the right to make our own desicion what we eat and put on our tables to feed our families. It should not be the Presidents desicion. to say what we buy or what we feed our families he does not pay our bills.

  2. Abbey September 29, 2018 Reply

    I don’t think the president should decide if people who are unemployed or otherwise be able to have food stamps. I think it’s totally not fair to take the food stamps program away from people who are having a hard time getting employment and how are they supposed to purchase their groceries

  3. Maritza October 10, 2018 Reply

    These people should try their crazy idea with them self first, How in the world United States is gone to go back in history (of 1960s) This President doesn’t understand the need of the poor. Outrageous! !

  4. Judy December 2, 2018 Reply

    Why don’t you try living on low income and a small amount of food stamps because most of it the only thing you can buy is foods that you’re going to fry whole bunch of potatoes and other fat foods so you suffer because you’re low income you’re required to eat this crap and just get fat and sit back and be not noticed.

  5. Jay O February 2, 2019 Reply

    Poor choices already. Milk-lotta folk lactose intolerant; peanut butter=allergy

  6. Lourdes June 25, 2019 Reply

    Lord, I Pray that the President , takes a compassionate look around before choosing what we put in our mouths. My husband is a breast cancer survivor but i as his wife should make the decision what we put in our mouths & those of our Love ones . President Trump, where is the compassion in your heart for those struggling. You sit up there making decisions while we Pray & worry . Every time you pick up a pen my heart skips a beat for all those children that have to face so much after we are gone. From day one as President, i have Pray for you & your Love ones to remember . we are All One Nation,,Under God, Amen! I am a Mother/Wife/Grandmother seeing our world suffering in silence. Sincerely, Think Before You Leap!

  7. Eli July 23, 2019 Reply

    Most people do not want to have to ask for snap benefits. Living on low income or being on disability is extremely hard and most often not by choice. Who would want to be limited and asking for snap. Being on disability often means no driving due to illness. Low income means work more then one job. It is hard enough trying to survive how can it be even harder to ask for help when it is going to mean going without even more and not being able to pick up what most may not even be able to eat.. It would leave some with no choice but to just give up. I would think the president would not want to have to live like this. Some do not have the means to become rich and successful, life and illness get in the way.

  8. Shaun August 16, 2019 Reply

    Good idea it’s about time I hope it passes

  9. kaija December 16, 2019 Reply

    shortens what allergic people can eat. what would poor people and disabled like me do who have terrible acid reflux , food, product, plan and medicine allergies?

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