In the biggest shakeup of the decades-old food stamp program, the Trump administration proposed on Monday to substitute part of the monthly cash payments with “100 percent American grown food” given to recipients.
Under the budget proposal unveiled on Monday, households which receive more than $90 monthly in food stamp cash would “receive a portion of their benefits in the form of a USDA Foods package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.”
The proposal would save taxpayers more than $213 billion over the next decade by reducing systemic abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and slashing costs since food would be purchased wholesale.
“USDA America’s Harvest Box is a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families – and all of it is homegrown by American farmers and producers,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “It maintains the same level of food value as SNAP participants currently receive, provides states flexibility in administering the program, and is responsible to the taxpayers.”
Individual states would have the freedom to decide how the food is delivered by using existing infrastructure, non-profit partnerships, or contracting commercial delivery services. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already purchases a wide variety of food for several programs, including the National School Lunch Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
“It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale, whereas [beneficiaries] have to buy it at retail,” Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said. “It also makes sure they’re getting nutritious food. So we’re pretty excited about that.”
The proposal would deal a blow to the $840 billion supermarket industry, where an estimated 7.5 percent of sales comes from food stamps, CNBC reported citing Customer Growth Partners (CPG). Walmart receives more than one-fifth of all food stamp sales, CPG estimates.
Last year, the food stamp program served 42.2 million people in 20.9 million households, Bloomberg reported. An average household received $254.14 per month. The Harvest Box program would affect about 80 percent of the recipients, according to the USDA.