- The Trump administration and the US Department of Agriculture proposed a grocery delivery program called the Harvest Box as part of the fiscal year 2019 budget.
- The program would replace part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
- One Trump administration official called the Harvest Box proposal a “Blue Apron-type program,” but there are some massive differences between the two ideas.
On Monday, President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out a massive fiscal year 2019 budget.
The document, while mostly symbolic, the budget does reveal some interesting priorities and proposals from the administration.
One of the proposals that drew the most attention was the Department of Agriculture’s Harvest Box program, which would become part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known more commonly as food stamps.
The Harvest Box program would replace some SNAP benefits for recipients getting more than $US90 a month from the program. Roughly 81% of all SNAP recipients would qualify for the boxes, according to the USDA, which would include groceries designed to replace half of the recipients’ overall benefits.
The program immediately drew comparisons to popular food delivery services. Office of Management Budget Director Mick Mulvaney even called it a “Blue Apron-type program.” But there are some huge differences between a Blue Apron-type service and the USDA’s proposal.
The types of food offered would be radically different
Blue Apron sends locally sourced, fresh ingredients, including fresh meats and vegetables. The Harvest Box, by contrast, would include shelf-stable foods – so any meats or vegetables would come canned or the food would be nonperishable.
Blue Apron and other meal-kit services deliver the fresh ingredients once a week directly to consumers. It’s unclear how Harvest Boxes would be delivered – according to the USDA fact sheet, states would determine how to make these deliveries.
And Blue Apron’s fresh ingredients require expensive packaging materials to chill the goods. Shelf-stable goods would likely not be packaged in the same manner.
A USDA spokesperson told Business Insider that, like meal-kit services, the Harvest Boxes would be tailored for “certain exceptions for religious, dietary and other restrictions.” Unlike the companies, however, it’s unclear if a recipient could tailor the box for preferences.
An idea or reality?
A USDA spokesperson told Business Insider that the Harvest Box was an idea developed internally by the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Sonny Perdue. The spokesperson said congressional action would be needed to implement such a program.
“The President’s budget was proposed to Congress who will take up the process from there, and as always, we will implement what is passed,” said the spokesperson.
Response from Democrats, especially those on committees that oversee SNAP, suggest such a program would have an uphill battle in Congress. For instance, Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, the ranking member on the House Committee on Agriculture’s Nutrition Subcommittee that oversees SNAP, immediately blasted the idea.
“This is outrageous: #TrumpBudget doesn’t just cut #SNAP by $US200 BILLION Hungry families lose HALF their financial aid & instead get monthly box of govt-selected food,” McGovern tweeted Tuesday. “They call it a ‘Harvest Box’ but it won’t include ANY fresh food. This is a cruel joke.”
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