President Donald Trump wants to drastically scale back food stamps and replace them with a "food box" delivery program - that the White House's Budget Director likens to the meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Monday about the plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to redesign the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) as "America's Harvest Box."
Under the plan, more than 16 million households would have half of their benefits go toward the food box delivery program.
It would dramatically alter how food assistance for the poor is delivered in the United States. The program calls for delivering boxes of shelf-stable food like cereal, peanut butter, beans and canned vegetables in lieu of half the electronic benefits for most households that depend on federal assistance.
Under the government's current program, food stamp recipients use a payment card, similar to a debit card, to buy food, and the USDA has strict rules about what can be bought with the benefits. Alcohol, household items and pet food, among other items, cannot be purchased.
The Trump administration proposal could shake up the country's largest program designed to battle domestic hunger issues. The proposed budget, released Monday, would gut SNAP benefits by $17.2 billion in 2019, about 22 percent of the program's total cost last year. USDA claims the new plan would save $129.2 billion over 10 years.
Whether food stamp recipients should be more restricted in the foods they can buy with their benefits is a matter of much debate that crosses party lines. Some take issue with the fact that taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize chips and soda purchases. But limiting freedom to make choices, is a slippery slope, some argue. Many Democratic lawmakers and anti-hunger groups are blasting the proposal.