Will food stamps change as we know them?

The Republicans would like to implement a change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp service in which some of the benefits of this federal government funded program will be provided in the form of a free box of groceries. Any changes to this public entitlement could impact over 40 million people who are currently enrolled per the USDA.

The proposal would be arguably the biggest change to the program since it launched in 1964. It would impact millions of children, families living in poverty, the disabled, and working poor who rely on food stamps to meet their nutritional needs. While there may be pros and cons to the proposed Republican change, but what it would do is the following.

Proposed food stamp changes

Anyone who in enrolled today will have the amount of vouchers they receive on their electronic benefit card (EBT) reduced. While the exact amount of the reduction will depend on many factors (household size, family income, etc.) in general the EBT card will have about 50% less funding on a monthly basis. So, someone who currently receives say $80 per month from this benefit will now get $40 per month on their EBT card

This reduction does not mean the government is cutting back the amount of assistance they receive though. Instead the voucher will be replaced by a “Meal Kit”. The concept will be similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, in which a box of groceries (canned and fresh) will be mailed to the SNAP recipient on a monthly basis. The goal with that is to make sure the family is still getting the nutritional support they need from the government. There are also other food assistance programs that can be used for nutritional needs.

The Republican led Congress have not decided what the contents of the Meal Kit would be, and it would likely change over time if/when this proposal goes into effect. That being said, it is rumored that the box of groceries would contain some or all of the following. Pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned fish milk, healthy juice, grains, canned fruit, bread, cereal, beans, meat, peanut butter, and vegetables. But this could very well change, and the amount in the box would be based on family size.

The goal is to both ensure families eat healthier (as some SNAP food stamps are spent on “borderline junk food”) as well as save money. As the government United States Department of Agriculture could mass produce the boxes, and use its bulk buying power to get the best rates on the food in the box. It also cuts back on the unhealthy/junk food that can sometimes be bought on SNAP.

The SNAP food stamp recipient household then would receive the Meal Kit (with groceries, ingredients, etc.) and then still have the ability to use the balance of their Electronic Benefit Card to shop for other items they need. Between these two approaches, Republicans feel families will still get the food they need on a monthly basis for themselves and their families.

The proposal could also try to help make the box more nutritional, as no one can argue the point that Americans are becoming more obese. In fact, 1 in 6 kids and 1 in 3 adults are now obese per the CDC. There is a 200 – 300% increase in obesity since the 1980s (only 30 years ago) per the CDC, so it is a major problem. While these changes to SNAP will not end obesity among those on food stamps (as each person needs to commit to living healthier and take action on their own), it may help reduce the national crisis.

Time will tell whether SNAP food stamps change as we know them. But anyone who now receives this benefit should be aware of these proposals.

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