The Trump administration is proposing a major shake-up in one of the country’s most important “safety net” programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the proposal, most SNAP recipients would lose much of their ability to choose the food they buy with their SNAP benefits.
The proposal is included in the Trump administration budget request for fiscal year 2019. It would require approval from Congress.
Under the proposal, which was announced Monday, low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month — just over 80 percent of all SNAP recipients — would get about half of their benefits in the form of a “USDA Foods package.” The package was described in the budget as consisting of “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.” The boxes would not include fresh fruits or vegetables.
Currently, SNAP beneficiaries get money loaded onto an EBT card they can use to buy what they want as long as it falls under the guidelines. The administration says the move is a “cost-effective approach” with “no loss in food benefits to participants.”
The USDA believes that state governments will be able to deliver this food at much less cost than SNAP recipients currently pay for food at retail stores — thus reducing the overall cost of the SNAP program by $129 billion over the next 10 years.
This and other changes in the SNAP program, according to the Trump administration, will reduce the SNAP budget by $213 billion over those years — cutting the program by almost 30 percent.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a hunger advocacy group that also helps clients access food-assistance services, said the administration’s plan left him baffled. “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,” Berg says.
He says SNAP is efficient because it is a “free market model” that lets recipients shop at stores for their benefits. The Trump administration’s proposal, he said, “is a far more intrusive, Big Government answer. They think a bureaucrat in D.C. is better at picking out what your family needs than you are?”