Trump wants to cut food stamps, use controversial meal kits instead

By Perry A. Farrell and Aleanna Siacon
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT  — A proposal by the Trump administration that calls for replacing some food assistance to the poor with meal deliveries is raising questions among some social service agencies.

On Monday, the Trump administration proposed cutting food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by $17 billion in 2019 and more than $213 billion over the next decade.

In an effort to cut costs, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced “America’s Harvest Box” for SNAP recipients.

Instead of receiving assistance in the form of an electronic benefit card (EBT), recipients receiving more than $90 in monthly aid would get about half that amount in the form of government-provided, nonperishable food items.

That idea isn’t sitting well with advocates for the poor.

“These cuts would leave vulnerable families here in Wayne County and Metro Detroit who are working hard to achieve economic mobility without the critical assistance they need to not fall further into poverty,” said Louis D. Piszker, CEO of the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

In Michigan, SNAP helped feed 1.3 million people as of December.

This measure comes on the back of the Trump’s administration’s second budget proposal, which slashes funding for a number of government agencies and a number of social assistance programs, in addition to food stamps.

The plan faces an uphill battle. Trump’s proposals would need to pass in both the House and the Senate — an unlikely feat.

Critics also questioned Mulvaney’s choice of words when describing the America’s Harvest Box. He referred to it as a “Blue Apron-type program,” where food stamps would be replaced by boxed food.

Blue Apron is an ingredient-and-recipe meal kit subscription service. Users can choose from a variety of chef-designed, step-by-step recipes and get seasonal ingredients sent to their doorstep.

However, recipients would not have the opportunity to choose what goes into Trump’s boxes. That leaves questions about how much food will be sent out, how dietary issues will be taken into account and what recipients should do if they don’t have a home/doorstep for deliveries.

Jennifer Ferguson, 41, a mother of two from Southgate who receives food assistance, said she doesn’t think the proposal is a good idea. A better way to cut costs, she said, would be to prohibit food assistance cards from being used to buy overly expensive items.

Also, she said some people may have allergies to the provided food.

“Some families have eight kids,” she said. “How much are you going to put in their box?”

In a story published by the Washington Post, Mulvaney said the plan would lower cost to the program because food could be bought at wholesale prices.

But the prospect of cuts to social services and cost-saving alternatives, like these boxes, inadvertently threaten other programs that benefit low-income families, said Wayne Metro’s Piszker.

“The recently released FY19 budget proposal calls to eliminate funding for the Community Services Block Grant program, which helps families through anti-poverty programs like housing, employment and nutrition assistance, as well as the Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization, which helps provide utility assistance and home energy supports to low- and moderate-income families throughout the country,” he said.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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