Poverty

“America’s Harvest Box” Takes Us Back to Government Cheese

“America’s Harvest Box” Takes Us Back to Government Cheese

President Trump’s proposed budget further isolates and stigmatizes America’s poor and food insecure.

President Trump’s proposed budget further isolates and stigmatizes America’s poor and food insecure.

On Monday, the White House handed its budget proposal to Congress. The 160-page document entitled, “An American Budget” features its own slogan: “Efficient, Effective, Accountable.” The proposal highlights the Trump administration’s priorities, most notably increased military spending, funding for the border wall, and cuts to necessary social safety net programs like food stamps. Although the plan to cut more than $1.8 trillion from so-called “entitlement” spending appears steep, the proposal for “America’s Harvest Box” is possibly the most alarming item.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Under the . . . America’s Harvest Box proposal, all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participating households receiving $90 per month or more in benefits will receive a package of nutritious, 100-percent U.S. grown and produced food. Approximately 16.4 million households, or about 81 percent of SNAP households would be impacted by this proposal. The amount of food received per household would be scaled to the overall size of the household's SNAP allotment, ultimately representing about half of their benefits. SNAP participants would receive domestically-sourced and produced food in lieu of a portion of their SNAP benefits.”

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney compared the expected contents of the box to what one might find in the ready-made meal kits provided by companies like Blue Apron. A quick perusal of Blue Apron’s website reveals a menu filled with delicious meals! From Beef Medallions and Scallion Salsa Verde to Salmon & Dukkah-Spiced Vegetables, I started to wonder what kind of ready-made meals the Trump administration planned to send to those struggling with food insecurity. What would be in this 100% American-made box? The proposal includes: shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables.

By the administration’s own analysis, this plan will take choice away from 81% of SNAP recipients, including their ability to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2016, 21.8 million households received benefits from the SNAP program. Within these households, nearly two-thirds were either children, adults over the age of 60, or disabled individuals. Specifically, 44% of SNAP benefit recipients were under the age of 18. Under this proposal, millions of families with children will no longer have the ability to take their full benefit allotment on a pre-loaded debit card to the grocery store to purchase items they know their children will enjoy (or actually eat). Further, they will have a diminished ability to purchase food items they know how to prepare in their own homes.

Whether the Trump administration has the plans or organizational ability to deal with the numerous logistical issues which might arise when the government gets into the business of shipping millions of food boxes to those receiving benefits remains to be seen. I have concern for the individuals who qualify for benefits but have no home, permanent address, or even a mailbox. I worry about the people who may not know how to cook the meals that have been shipped to them, or those without a stove or electricity who find themselves unable to cook their pasta or beans. Most importantly, I think about the children who will feel the stigma of having their food sent to them in the mail by the government rather than simply taking a trip the grocery store with their parents to purchase fresh, nutritious produce and meats with a pre-loaded debit card. 

President Trump is taking us back to the era of government cheese, choosing to further the stigma that already exists for those receiving government benefits.

Brittany Page

Brittany Page has an M.S. in Clinical Psychology. She is the co-host of I Doubt It with Dollemore podcast. An eager lifelong learner, her interests include psychology, religion, & politics. The world would be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Brittany Page

Brittany Page has an M.S. in Clinical Psychology. She is the co-host of I Doubt It with Dollemore podcast. An eager lifelong learner, her interests include psychology, religion, & politics. The world would be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Earth, Wind & Fire.