How Trump's 'food box' proposal could affect families in Wisconsin

President proposes box of food to partially replace food stamps

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's (SNAP) cash benefits would be replaced with boxes of food. These will comprise 81% of the American citizens who are under a program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. According to the a statement from the USDA, "America's Harvest Box" would contain foods like "shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-eat- cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables".

According to Dean, from CBPP, the Trump administration wants to trim an additional $80 billion from the SNAP program by cutting off about 4 million people who now receive food assistance.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in early December that he wanted states to have more flexibility in doling out SNAP, announcing the agency wanted to hear about programs from states that don't increase the cost of the program and will combat what he said is fraud and waste.

Randy Lockwood, owner of the Great American Food Stores locations in Watertown, Star Lake and Boonville, estimated a fifth of his business comes from people using SNAP benefits.

The new plan will apply to families that receive more than $90 per month in aid, which includes 80 percent of all SNAP beneficiaries.

Cuts to food snaps and other programs like it typically face a tough fight and could be removed by the agriculture committees, who typically take up any changes to the program in the Farm Bill that is reauthorized every five years.

The President's budget calls for cutting the SNAP program by 25%, or $193 billion, over the course of 10 years.

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"Food stamp recipients would receive at least half of their benefits through a food box and the food box would be non-perishable food items, similar to items we have all around the food bank", said Zack Wilson, the Executive Director of the High Plains Food Bank.

Smaller convenience stores in the Wilmington area, who wished to remain anonymous, said the change would reduce their sales, but to a lesser degree than food stores. "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". The proposal puts the United States government directly in charge of what kind of food ends up on the dinner tables of SNAP recipients, and it's causing some controversy.

Changes could be coming for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on SNAP benefits in the Pine Belt. Plus, it could be hard for families to pick up the box, especially if they don't have a vehicle.

The proposal would affect 38 million people.

The president's budget still needs to be approved by Congress. Also, they were concerned that families would not know what food they would get in advance nor have any choice regarding what they receive.

It isn't clear whether the boxes will come with directions on how to cook the foods inside. "You gotta have that", said Hoegler.

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