The Trump administration is proposing significant changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. As part of the president’s budget request for 2019, SNAP recipients would partially lose the ability to choose the food they receive in an effort to cut costs for the program, according to NPR.
Under the proposal, SNAP recipients who receive at least $90 in benefits would receive roughly half of the funds as a “USDA Foods package.” Expected to affect more than 80 percent of SNAP recipients, the foods package is described in the budget proposal as consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.”
The current SNAP program provides low-income beneficiaries with money loaded on an EBT card that can be used to buy a variety of foods that fall under specific guidelines, including bread, dairy products, meat, and some desserts. The system provides recipients with choice when buying food and deciding where to shop.
Under the Trump administration’s proposal, the USDA expects to save $213 billion by using the delivery packages and enacting other changes, enabling significant cuts to the SNAP budget.
But the proposal has drawn intense criticism from Democrats and food advocacy groups who argue that the proposed changes reduce benefits for low-income Americans and complicate the system.
“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,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, an advocacy group that helps clients enroll in food “safety net” services like SNAP, according to NPR.
The administration has yet to explain the logistics of the massive delivery system a food box program would require, and whether the box will contain instructions on how to prepare the food it contains.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a ranking member on the House nutrition subcommittee, criticized the changes as impractical and said that the food box idea was never mentioned at SNAP hearings until Monday’s budget was released, according to The Associated Press.
“I don’t even know how to implement it. Who would distribute these boxes?” he said. “How would we do this? Do they anticipate recipients getting them at supermarkets? In addition to being a cruel and demeaning and awful idea, it’s just not practical.”
Any changes to SNAP would have to be passed by Congress before they can take effect, and several critics have already expressed skepticism that any of the food assistance proposals would pass.