Packer Insight - Greg and Ashley on Harvest Box proposal
( The Packer staff )

People ask “How can a country as rich as the U.S. have people who go hungry?”

That’s a fair question, especially since the U.S. has a huge government feeding program in addition to the many, often faith-based, private programs.

Perhaps the government program could use an adjustment.

In the wake of the Trump administration’s proposal to deliver a “Harvest Box” of food to SNAP recipients, the biggest detractors were retail groups, whose members may lose sales, and the omnipresent anti-Trumpers who would rather side with North Korea than the president, as seen at the Winter Olympics.

There have been claims of the nutrition community opposing it, but very few actual sources of criticism from that sector. I have no more insight to the specifics than many other observers, but I can give some perspective on some of the criticism.

Here are the biggest opposition points: 

1. It will hurt retail. Grocery store groups are just doing their jobs representing their members. There may be some lost sales, or it may balance out. Regardless, government nutrition programs aren’t designed to benefit retail. They’re to feed hungry citizens. 

2. The logistics won’t work. Lots of people have said this, but the Trump administration hasn’t released any details on logistics other than to say states will work it out. Will it use a government or private system? We don’t know. Let’s not say something won’t work when we don’t know what it is. People will be encouraged to bring good ideas to the party. 

3. The government shouldn’t tell people what to eat. What? The government has done this for many generations, through recommendations, subsidies and feeding programs. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not someone’s whole diet, and it’s not designed to be permanent. This box would lay the nutrition groundwork for someone who can now use remaining SNAP benefits to buy other food, such as fresh produce and meat, and even use their own money for food, like everyone else.  

4. It adds to government bureaucracy. This program would definitely need to be tested, which is what the administration proposes with a pilot program. But a shipment of nutrition basics to start the month would make things easier for families rather than having to shop for all a family’s food, and less government involvement in reimbursements. 

5. Packages to poor neighborhoods won’t work. This is simply not true. Poor areas get mail and they get products through Amazon and other delivery services. Some are harder to get to than others, which is no different than the food desert challenges people already face. What about the risk of theft? It’s there, but theft and corruption are already a part of SNAP and likely to go down when the object is peanut butter instead of dollars.

These are just a few of the criticisms I’ve heard this week, and I’m unimpressed.

The current SNAP system is far from perfect, and if this administration thinks it can do better, we ought to say “Prove it” instead of “No, you can’t.”

Greg Johnson is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at

Submitted by Barbee J Butts on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:18

There are many, many Gov't and Non-Govt feeding programs but only ONE is advertised. (Food Stamps) Maybe better education could help combat hunger.
That said-cost is a real concern. A box program will have HUGE shipping expenses which will divert funds from food to buying/filling/handling and delivering boxes. That factor will be difficult to swallow.

Submitted by Handy N Handsome on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:37

Shipping costs of the food products purchased with SNAP benefits don't have shipping charges?

In reply to by Barbee J Butts (not verified)

Submitted by Barbee J Butts on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 19:33

Do you not agree that it would be more costly to have individual boxes sorted, packed and shipped to individual homes on a monthly basis? I would imagine that's far more expensive than the shipping costs built into the retail price of merchandise at any local grocery. Even the mark-up at grocers is small (they rely on volume).
While I applaud the new administration's efforts to seek out new ideas and solutions for our problems, I don't think this one is a winner. But let's keep trying!

In reply to by Handy N Handsome (not verified)

Submitted by Bob Bossong on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:37

Preselected foods would be problematic for a significant number of people, especially those with allergies/sensitivities to Wheat/Gluten, Peanuts or Dairy.

Submitted by Ricardo Mancia on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:39

I really hesitated in making any political comments but the the following remark did make me upset. As a Former Marine and a family of Marines I find this highly upsetting.

and the omnipresent anti-Trumpers who would rather side with North Korea than the president, as seen at the Winter Olympics.

Marines earned 42 Medals of Honor during the Korean conflict. I ASSumed that it was the right of any American to have the right to voice his opinion for, against, or indifferent. I understood the Packer to give views of Products, Packaging and Government insights on upcoming changes, not make statements about any group.

You also failed to discuss any with Allergens, sure lets give them peanut butter excellent, depending on the severity it can cause death but you not did go into how the Government was going to handle that portion.

Good article bad political views.

Mancia Ricardo A. Cpl USMC (5th Marine Regiment, held the rearguard during the inchon retreat).

Submitted by Bruce Watson on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 13:26

Excellent response, sir. I was also offended by the political statement in the article. There is enough division in this country without having The Packer fan the flames. Agriculture deserves better.

My father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. And yes, it was a war. A war that has never ended. In order for my father to receive his veteran's pension, my parents had to divest themselves of their assets. They also applied for food stamps and received $40 a month. Not much for two people. After my father died, my mother received a $40 widow's pension for one year. Her Social Security Cost of Living Increase dropped it to $16 the second year and eliminated both the widow's pension and her SNAP the next year. Receiving Social Security of less than $1000 a month put her over the poverty level and disqualified her for assistance. SNAP is no free lunch. Not much of one anyway.

In reply to by Ricardo Mancia (not verified)

Submitted by Barbee J Butts on Tue, 02/20/2018 - 14:33

Dear Bruce
Your mother is lucky to have you looking out for her. I hope you don't mind that I have a couple of ideas for you to try.
In our area we have food banks, both community and religious. The one I am familiar with often has surplus food that goes undistributed. What is offered is fresh produce and packaged foods. There are certain income qualifications, but it sounds like your Mom may already be there. The main road block with food banks is that you have to go and pick it up, they don't deliver.
Another idea is "Meals on Wheels". Again income qualifications. They deliver prepared meals to her door.
Lastly, when your Mom and Dad went to the VA, did they have a Veteren's Advocate? They are free of charge and can probably be found in a telephone book or VA Hospital. The thing about Veteren's Advocates is that they 'know stuff'. They know where all the red tape is and how to cut through it. While there is no guarantee, it may be worth a try, just to see if anything has been missed.
Thanks for allowing me to try and help. Good Luck!

In reply to by Bruce Watson (not verified)

Submitted by audiomind on Tue, 02/27/2018 - 11:18

So you're an anti-Trumper then? So what part of the facts upset you exactly?

In reply to by Ricardo Mancia (not verified)

Submitted by The Foodzguy on Tue, 02/27/2018 - 11:51

I agree with your Good Article bad political views comment. It was totally unnecessary to take political cheap shots when we are discussing feeding hungry citizens and protecting our hard earned tax dollars. Just lost a lot of respect for the author.

As to the idea of a distribution of excess government commodities, I was director of operations for the Federal Free Lunch to school children for a major metropolitan area many years ago, and government commodities such as frozen ground beef and cheese came in by the rail car. I believe that cheese, peanut butter, etc. are still distributed by Food Banks so the idea of the food box is not so far fetched, but the individual distribution may be problematic. Having a central area distribution point for customer pick up of a weekly or monthly box may be workable. I think some of these programs may already exist, if you recall the Eddie Murphy character on Saturday Night Live back in the day, talking about getting CHEEEEEEEZE.

So yes let's look at any and all possible solutions that may be more cost effective than the status quo but let's stay on task and avoid the political shots.

In reply to by Ricardo Mancia (not verified)

Submitted by Audiomind on Tue, 02/27/2018 - 11:16

It is not moral to steal from one person to give to another through the force of government. There are voluntary avenues for this noble cause that don't involve violence.