The Trump Administration's Office of Management and Budget has proposed a revolutionary way to update the SNAP food assistance system: instead of giving out vouchers for healthy food, the government would simply ship boxes of food directly to those in need, in a "Blue Apron-style" meal program.
According to NBC News, the plan, which is still very much in its infancy, is called America's Harvest Box, and would feature a weekly shipment of "100% American" food items including "shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry, or fish."
SNAP recipients would be eligible to trade part of their monthly government benefit for enrollment in the Harvest Box program.
"What we do is propose that, for folks who are on food stamps — part, not all — part of their benefits come in the actual sort of — and I don't want to steal somebody's copyright — but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash," explained OMB director Mick Mulvaney.
Blue Apron is, of course, a weekly meal subscription service that sends you boxes of pre-measured fresh ingredients you use to prepare two or three full meals. The program differs in the sense that Blue Apron is a for-profit business, and the boxes are tailored to subscribers personal requests, and designed to create at least two meals without leftovers. The government's box would be a delivery of mostly non-perishable groceries.
Obviously the program was immediately tagged as cruel and unusual by the Left, and the former SNAP oversight director, under President Obama, appeared in a number of hyperbolic interviews, absolutely aghast at the change. He told Politico that asking SNAP recipients to take the food boxes in lieu of benefits was akin to forcing people to beg the government for meager handouts.
The left-leaning Food Research and Action Center compared the plan to wartime rationing and Soviet bread lines.
Now, of course, one can only imagine what might happen if the Federal government were in charge of a food delivery service. Since there is no incentive to cut costs (even though the OMB says that's why they considered the change in the first place) or maximize efficiency, it's likely the "America's Harvest Box" program would quickly be over budget and behind on its deliveries, if not out of business entirely. And based on what the government bizarrely believes fulfills particular nutrition requirements, might just be a box of raw potatoes, canned tomato soup, and Spam.
But credit where it is due: the Trump Administration is trying to find a new and innovative way to handle a cumbersome program — and SNAP is a cumbersome program. The boxes wouldn't contain, at least in theory, anything worse than what SNAP recipients are already required to buy with their funds (the supplementary income is designated for healthy food only, and cannot be used on hot food, medicine, alcohol, or non-food items). Most substantive food stamp benefits come from state governments.
And it turns out, there are already a few programs like this in operation, including one in Chicago, run by Chris Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's son.