The planned program would be applied to families that receive over $90 in food stamp aid.
According to the USDA the amount of food received by each recipient would be scaled to the size of the household and would contain USA grown and produced food, like shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, as well as canned fruits and vegetables. The SNAP boxes would contain peanut butter, shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, and canned beans and meat. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards.
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"You actually receive the food instead of receiving the cash", White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a press conference.
The proposal at hand was tucked deep within the Trump administration's 2019 budget request released Monday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it could supply these goods at about half the cost of retail, enabling it to reduce the cost of SNAP while still feeding the needy.
"It maintains the same level of food value as SNAP participants now receive, provides states flexibility in administering the program, and is responsible to the taxpayers", he said in a statement on Tuesday.
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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the plan was innovative and bold, highlighting that the food in the packages would be grown by American farmers.
But the so-called "America's Harvest Box" is already coming under criticism from those who say it won't live up to high-end standards and denies choices to people getting the benefit.
The proposal would take away a lot of healthy fresh options for snap recipients something that greatly concerns the food bank. The decision would be based on nutrition standards used for other programs including the Emergency Food Assistance Program. They feared it would upend a much-needed benefit for more than 80% of those in the program.
Indeed, issues such as allergies, bowel difficulties, and even simple preferences would invariably make the program a hard sell to food stamp recipients, much less to state governments that would have to implement such an initiative.
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"So if this starts to be phased out that's going to put a greater strain on our resources, because when people can't get those benefits, they are going to come to our partner agencies because people still have to get their nutrition", Wells said.