The Trump administration is seeking radical reform to how food stamp benefits are delivered. ( USDA )

Dubbing it a “Blue Apron-type” program, the White House wants to shift some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars from purchases at retail stores to boxes of non-perishables shipped to homes.

In the White House fiscal year 2019 budget document , the Trump administration says its “bold new approach” to managing the food assistance program will combine traditional SNAP benefits with 100% U.S.-produced foods sent directly to households.

In a press briefing Feb. 13, director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said “America’s Harvest Box” would include cereals, pasta, beans, canned meat, shelf-stable milk, canned fruit and vegetables and peanut butter.

“It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale, whereas they have to buy it at retail,” Mulvaney said in the briefing. “It also makes sure that (SNAP recipients) are getting nutritious food.”

Fresh produce and other perishables are not included in the food box program, which the agency said would account for about half of the food stamp benefits. SNAP recipients would purchase fresh produce and other fresh foods with the remaining benefit as they do now, commonly at retail stores.

The new program, and other proposed reforms, is projected to cut $17 billion from the SNAP budget in fiscal year 2019 and $213 billion from the SNAP budget over 10 years.  SNAP program expenses were $68 billion in 2017.


Perdue on SNAP

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a late addition to the National Grocer Association's annual conference agenda, spoke Feb. 11 at the Las Vegas show, the day before the administration released the budget proposal. As in recent comments, he emphasized the administration's commitment to helping only "those who truly need assistance."

“We believe that people who can work should be expected to work or prepare to work to receive benefits,” he said. “Expect to see emphasis on elimination of waste, fraud and abuse in our nutrition program.”

The coming budget has “common-sense reforms that call for greater consistency across nutritional programs,” he said.

“We’ll also have a bold, new innovative approach to SNAP,” he said, but did not share details — which include the Harvest Box program that would affect NGA members, who own and operate independent grocery stores.


Retail responds

The White House proposal was met with resistance from retailers.

The NGA responded to the proposed changes Feb. 13, saying it was “extremely concerned.”

“SNAP is one of the most efficient federal social safety net programs because the retailers are the linchpin of a successful public-private partnership,” Greg Ferrara, the association’s executive vice president of advocacy, public relations and member services, said in a release. “Fierce competition in the food retail industry drives consumer prices down, therefore benefiting those on a limited food budget more than anyone.

“NGA is extremely concerned with the president’s budget proposal, as it abandons the proven free-market model on the ill-advised assumption that the government can purchase and provide food more efficiently than its current private sector partner,” Ferrara said in the release.

Food Marketing Institute Chief Public Policy Officer Jennifer Hatcher said in a statement that retailers don’t view the proposed changes as positive or efficient.

“FMI and our members have worked with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the USDA over several decades to achieve a national system, utilizing existing commercial infrastructure and technology to achieve the greatest efficiency, availability and lowest cost,” she said in the statement. “As we understand the proposal in the president’s budget to create a USDA commodity foods box of staples, each of these achievements would be lost.“

She said the program would not likely save much money.

“As the private partners with the government ensuring efficient redemption of SNAP benefits, retailers are looking to the administration to reduce red tape and regulations, not increase them with proposals such as this one,” Hatcher said in the statement.

For more on Perdue's speech, see "Perdue teases 'bold new approach' to SNAP in Trump budget."

Produce Retailer Editor Pamela Riemenschneider contributed to this article.

Submitted by Ruffy on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:11

Last time Blue Apron rang my door bell I told them if they ever did i it again I would accept delivery and give it to a homeless person. I guess I was ahead of the game! But seriously, the logistics of this would be horrible. Where I live, many people live in multi-family buildings with no doorman. Commercial delivery services don’t have keys to the front door, and even if they manage to get in, they dump the stuff in the hall. Sometimes or just gets left on the stoop. And of course, some buildings aren’t locked at all. So what’s to stop someone stealing the boxes! Not to mention, many SNAP recipients are working people, who can’t easily take a day off to take delivery. And if there is a central pickup place, what about people who don’t have cars? Etc, etc.

Submitted by Kristin on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 17:18

How would this be "horrible"?? People on food stamps don't get Amazon?? I used to live in an apartment, and I got packages the SAME way anyone else did. Just because their on EBT doesn't mean they're incapable of receiving boxes. Good heavens.

I think it's a wonderful idea. You know who the real winner in the EBT game is? The food retailers! I noticed since EBT is almost ubiquitous in my area (I am in an area that has a large working class Hispanic population) the prices on processed foods like Kraft Macaroni has really gone up. In fact, on the 1st through the 3rd of the month those type of foods prices go up. This is no coincidence. I myself abhor those instant type of foods, but I see them in all the shopping carts. Most of the people I see around here, self excluded, load up on what I like to call "fake food". In the olden days, they used to give out "Government cheese", USDA peanut butter, blocks of chili, rice, and other comestibles. This USDA food was often the butt of jokes, but it was good, decent healthful food.
The home delivery will REMOVE the profits from retailers and food giants, and put it where it rightly belongs- back to the State, who pays for these benefits- rather, WE do. I would like to offer up a bit of knowledge for the readers, and that is what Fascism is: it is also known as "corporatism" a word coined by Mussolini. I personally find it quite alarming that my taxes go toward some corporations profits. This is exactly what EBT provides- our, your- tax dollars, giving Sara Lee, Kraft, and Safeway big profits. Does this sound fair??

And, to again address your worries over EBT card holders getting boxes delivered- I wouldn't worry yourself over "box thefts". I am sure if - IF! it were to happen, the thieves would be charged as if any other mail theft.

In reply to by Ruffy (not verified)

Submitted by oops- no way to edit comment on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 17:22

I meant to say "real LOSERS are food retailers" (sigh) but, to sum it all up, NO corporations should be benefiting off of the humanitarian efforts- and forced taxation of its citizens. As a matter of fact, one of our US presidents of history (Pierce?) said that it is quite not the govt's authority to use its citizens monies for humanitarian causes. I agree- but since we're already taxed, at LEAST prevent that funding to go toward a private company or corporations profit margin. It's evil, it's wrong, and it's NOT FAIR to the taxpayer. Actually, it's slavery defined- because you're working, yet your earnings are removed without your consent, and that same money goes to profits of Kraft or ConAgra. You have NO choice whether to pay taxes or not. Now, why the American people aren't marching or rioting over this fact is beyond me...

In reply to by Kristin (not verified)

Submitted by Maura on Mon, 02/04/2019 - 19:11

It's important to remember that public assistance is just one of many places that our government spreads tax dollars around. Tax dollars go to fund many causes and govt departments that have waste. It's impossible to stop waste without dictatorship!! We cannot control what people do. Tax is a responsibility we all have and none of us want to pay it but it's required to run the country we live in. We need our garbage picked up, parks maintained, jails secure.

In reply to by oops- no way t… (not verified)

Submitted by cathy on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:44

I can't see this working because the shipping costs would negate any savings made on these already low cost heavy food staples.

It would require all SNAP recipeints to register an address and thus be easily tracked (in case being poor becomes a reason for incarceration or deportation.)

Submitted by What?? "Easily tracked"?? on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 17:26

For one, their EBT card is sent to their home address! The USDA(? is that the authority?) already HAS their address. They need it for their benefits. If someone's got a warrant out for their arrest, getting food delivered is the least of their problems. And, I highly doubt SNAP does "warrant searches" on their EBT card holders, nor send deputies out to arrest them. They don't have the funds, the manpower. Good GRACIOUS the comments on this... this is a fabulous idea, and the opponent comments... well...

In reply to by cathy (not verified)

Submitted by r henry on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 15:42

Another bad idea from Washington.

Submitted by Lacy on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 17:35

I love it! Why shouldn't they have to give an address to recieve their food goods. The government knows where I live and work so as to tax me. I think they should get proper non perishible food this way, have you watched them shop at Sams with their EBT cards? Somehow they can pay for a membership to buy junkfood and soda in bulk. I refuse to shop at Sams since they started to accept EBT cards because it was abhorrent to me to see what they spend our tax dollars on. I have to be careful with my families budget and I try to feed my family good healthy food, but these people stock up on individually wrapped junk food only. I never saw fresh fruit or vegetables in their overloaded carts they were riding on due to being obese. Our SNAP program is a free junk food binge for probably 90% of these people.

Submitted by Susan on Tue, 02/27/2018 - 12:04

I shop at sams with my ebt card and with cash. I dont buy junk. Its easier for me to buy the whole mth that just a week of vegs. . I well not take that nasty processed box. I like fresh food not canned and frozen crap. Not all of us on ebt. Eats junk and crap.

In reply to by Lacy (not verified)

Submitted by Cutbenifits on Sat, 03/09/2019 - 16:35

We don't care what you like Susan, I don't shop at Sam's anymore cause of you guys with EBT. You are begging off the system and have nerve to be picky? As long as you and your kids eat that should be good enough.

In reply to by Susan (not verified)

Submitted by Don on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 19:52

I like it. The most obese and those at health risk from poor food choses are the poor. We all know processed foods are bad for us and we all know the majority of those on food stamps and government assistance are obese. I don't see them delivering the food as some suggest, as we all also know, it is best to make the effort to actually get up off your butt and get your own food. if we can teach those that have poor eating habits to learn good eating habits, well, that is good for all of us. Follow the money, it always knows.

Submitted by Amber on Wed, 02/14/2018 - 02:57

The proposed changes to SNAP would send people with Celiac's, other food allergies, and religious restrictions on what they can eat -- a box of garbage. And take away their ability to buy food that fits their lives and their bodies. Not to mention that the processed food included in the "Don't Care" packages is high in sugar and sodium, both proven to contribute to long-term health problems.

That doesn't look like a solution to anything, unless slowly killing people is a solution.

Submitted by Randi on Sat, 05/12/2018 - 18:03

Thank you so much for making this point. I have been saying this all along ever since I heard about this proposal.
My son has ADD/ADHD and I have to keep him on a VERY striced diet. Plus an allergies to red dye and blueberries. I have gluten and wheat allergies (those two are different). I am pre-diabetic/hypertensive. No I am NOT overweight. Both run heavily in my family. With a whole slew of other health issues. I am able to keep us both in check partially through our diets. I won't be able to with the crap in this ridiculous box!
I'm not necessarily against it. However, if they would give us options to pick and choose from based on (for) our individual needs. Along with foods such as fresh/frozen fruits, veggies, meats, ect. weekly/bi-weekly. Maybe let us use our cards at farmers markets.
A lot of us CAN'T work. And I am SO sick of people thinking that we're all just sitting around being lazy. Using our SNAP benefits to get fat because we want to and these boxes will be everyone's saving grace.
Hate to tell everyone this, but it's not. All it's going to accomplish is starve those who ARE using them properly and eating healthy. Make those who are sick even sicker. Screw over grocer's, put many out of work, raise food costs exponentially, and ultimately plunge this country even deeper into debt.
Most of what's going into these boxes will either be thrown away or sent to churches for their food banks. Where they will be redistributed only to either be thrown away or returned.
Where's the savings? Where's the help?
I know that there are people who DO abuse this program. Believe me, they tick me off when I see they have 5 kids and $500 worth junk food piled up in their cart. I won't pretend that it doesn't. I also won't that I don't buy junk food too. Though, it's usually a special reason... Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Birthday Cake, etc! Then there's those that over load on $300 worth of lobster, big fat t-bone, halibut, ect.
Yes, some people DO REALLY piss me off! But then, there ARE those that DO deserve to be on SNAP and are NOT abusing this system. Whom this box is REALLY going to screw over.

In reply to by Amber (not verified)

Submitted by Shelia on Mon, 01/21/2019 - 11:50

There are alot of people in your same situation and I understand where your coming from but the people that are abusing the program are the ones to blame for this happening. If only there was way to stop and or restricted some way on what you can buy on your snap program that would stop alot of the abuse of spending. It isn't fair that people like you are being punished for something other people are doing. I'm so sorry that you are having to go through this . I hope things go well for you. God bless.

In reply to by Randi (not verified)

Submitted by Almost got it right on Wed, 02/14/2018 - 05:56

I work in a grocery store for 20 years now. I have been saying all along that the SNAP program should be like the WIC program. Get a voucher for the staple foods , fresh fruit/vegetables and fresh meats. Go home and cook for your family. No soda or junk. If you want those things you are going to have to work for it.
SNAP is creating sick people and driving up the health care cost. I see what is going in the shopping baskets and it has very little to do with good food.

Submitted by Produce Pro on Wed, 02/14/2018 - 16:51

Wholesale price benefits will be negated by home delivery costs.... or if recipients have to pick the box up, by refrigerated storage costs. Both systems require added labor for transportation, unloading, storage etc. but it would create opportunities for politically wired-in investors and cronies to start new companies to suck $$ out of the FED. Horrible idea..

Submitted by steve on Fri, 02/23/2018 - 22:08

Very few comments here from a farmer perspective. Having seen access to fresh fruits and vegetables expand through calfresh and at my own store with an ebt machine, people on assistance do buy wholesome products including the vegetables, melons, berries I produce. The impulse to replicate a Blue Apron system, shelf-stable products and not focus on fresh, healthy produce is wrong. Just dial in prohibitions on candy, soda, any other product that does not directly support US farmers. The processed foods are dependent on the global marketplace. Country Of Origin Labeling people.

Submitted by Randi on Sat, 05/12/2018 - 18:06

I would LOVE to be able to have the ability to my SNAP benefits where I live during our farmers markets. I would probably use my entire balance. :-)

In reply to by steve (not verified)

Submitted by Cutbenifits on Sat, 03/09/2019 - 16:28

You don't like it get a job and buy what u want, I cant tell the government not to take so much of my hard earn money, so why should u choose what to eat?? Beggars cant be picky.

Submitted by Pami Perry on Tue, 06/11/2019 - 16:10

Let's go back to when President Roseavelt started food stamp if you did not work you got no food stamp the disabled people got help but they still had to do something little.
Unless you had to stay in bed all the time then you did not have to work and you still got help.
Also people went to soup kitchens we need to have these people go to soup kitchen and sign there name to show they went or they should no get food stamp.

Submitted by Hailey elliott on Tue, 12/31/2019 - 01:02

This would cause people to starve including developing children, pregnant and breastfeeding women. My pre school soon has celiac disease and can't have anything that contains gluten. I am diabetic. My breastfeeding cold is allergic to corn, wheat and oats so I can't eat these foods we breastfeeding. Because of course our dietary restrictions, it costs more money to drive to the food pantry than the cost of the few food items we can eat. If you have kidney problems, you can't tolerate high sodium foods like called foods tend to be. Two of my children are also autistic with sensory issues. Kids with sensory issues will end up on feeding tubes en mass of such a thing gets passed. Diabetics who control their diabetes with a low carb or keto diet will end up needing to use insulin and other drugs in order to eat those foods in the picture. People will start dying of allergic reactions when they get desperate enough to eat the only thing available. Children with special diet will have stunted growth, health problems and may die. Parents will get there children taken away when their children begin to have these health problems and cannot afford to buy foods they can eat. No chiod should be forced to develop their bodies on rice, beans and canned foods. They will be deficient in everything. How do people think this is just ok? The only adult person in my household who does not work is on disability. You should not even have to prove your health condition. The process to test for celiac disease entails the person suffering for weeks eating gluten because the test requires you to be eating gluten for but to be accurate which causes undernutrition from lack of absorbtion of nutrients and horrible pain and damage to the gut including cancer of the gut. Even restricting foods to be bought is wrong because not everyone agrees what is healthy. Everyone has the right to eat the foods that don't hurt them, even if someone disagrees with what is healthy. One example is cholesterol which bus needed for healthy hormone production and brain health. You can't get anything fresh? What? How is this going to be healthier than stamps? That means no meat or cheese which are the most expensive past of the diet and necessary for good health.... More important than grains.