I’m on the fence about this one.
On the one hand, it could potentially go so bad for the needy in this nation.
On the other hand, the food stamp system has been horribly abused, through the years. It’s time for some sort of clamp down.
And no, don’t tell me the food stamp program, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program runs like a well-oiled machine. I have too many anecdotes to the contrary.
The changes to the program worked into President Trump’s budget proposal suggests going from food stamps to food boxes, for some recipients, and would be called America’s Harvest Box.
Currently, SNAP gives 42 million Americans a food voucher worth $125 per person that can be redeemed for almost any food product in a grocery store. It’s one of the most important safety net programs in the U.S.
“Under the proposal,” Monday’s budget document says, “households receiving $90 or more per month in SNAP benefits will 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.”
It sounds like a nice, well-rounded diet, and it addresses the concerns of some that the funds are being spent on useless, “junk food” type items.
It may also address the issue of those who sell their benefits.
Yes, it happens.
They will take a card with $500 on it, and sell it to someone for $300, for example. That money goes in their pockets and on luxury items.
Remember all the stories coming out of New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, with people abusing the cards the government gave them to try and get back on their feet?
It’s that, but on a national scale.
Perhaps food boxes wouldn’t be as easy to pass off.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney on Monday likened the proposal to a “Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash.”
Blue Apron is a little more high-end than what this proposal suggests, but I think people get the picture.
Then, there’s the other side of the argument:
Having the government buy people’s food would be less efficient than letting them buy it themselves, said Stacy Dean, a nutrition assistance expert at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“We put money in the pocket of individuals to spend at their local grocery store,” Dean said. “The idea that a government bureaucracy could improve on that is a huge mistake.”
That’s true. If the government touches it, it pretty much goes horribly wrong.
It’s how we got this screwed up welfare system, in the first place.
This new proposal is based on one that is already in existence for people over the age of 60. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program works through food banks and local government to distribute meals to the elderly.
“This cost-effective approach supports American agriculture, prevents certain types of program abuse, provides state flexibility in delivering food benefits, and ensures the nutritional value of the benefits provided,” the budget says.
Secretary Sonny Perdue called it “a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families ― and all of it is home-grown by American farmers and producers.”
The USDA said states would have flexibility to work out distribution, which could include home delivery or existing partnerships. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program works with local agencies which in turn partner with nonprofits to give out the food, often from distribution sites rather than by delivery.
So how much would this program save the taxpayers?
The projected savings are about $213 billion, over a period of 10 years. That would be less than 1 percent of federal projected spending.
Republican lawmakers hope to do something with welfare reform soon, and that’s warranted. The administration would like to see some sort of work requirement implemented for those SNAP recipients who aren’t disabled. That’s also a good thing.
How far this goes and how much of a nightmare it turns into will be the topic of high speculation and a lot of concern for those who depend on the program.