Mixed reaction to federal food benefits proposal

February 14, 2018 12:00 AM

Sweeping changes are proposed for the food stamp program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. 

President Donald Trump has proposed delivering food boxes to families. It would affect about 16.5 million Americans or 81 percent of SNAP households nationwide.

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Trump said the boxes would include nutritious, U.S. grown and produced food for families who receive at least $91 dollars a month from the federal government.

"We don't want to see fresh produce out of the picture, that's not helpful to anyone," said Mitch Gruber, the Chief Programs Officer for Foodlink. 

Gruber is excited about a new machine at Foodlink that can bag loose apples. It allows Foodlink to distribute all of the locally grown apples to food pantries. Gruber is appalled at a federal proposal to provide food that is any less fresh. 

"We try to embolden all of our food pantries to have options," he said. “That's at a charitable level. So to think about the federal government trying to take the choice out of people's economic opportunities, that's a dollar that you're trying to take people's choice away. Even at a charitable level we're encouraging choice. That's just wrong."

Republican Congressman Tom Reed from New York’s 23rd District sees things differently.

"To me I'm open to creative, innovative new ways to solving these problems," said Reed. "The issues with the existing program, there are some things we can do better."

"Also a look at EBT cards turning up in a lot of criminal activity,” Reed said. When you're seeing people discover they're becoming a quasi-cash equivalent in regards to how they're utilized in the black market, that is something that maybe that could be addressed in getting food to the people who actually need it, rather than these cards getting mixed in the black underground market."

However, Gruber said fraud is not the biggest problem with SNAP and he says saving money should be the only consideration.

"Sending someone home with a jar of peanut butter when their kid's allergic to it is frankly a safety hazard,” Gruber said. “It's wasteful and in no way helps to streamline government.”

The proposal would give states flexibility to distribute the food boxes and would like use the help of organizations like Foodlink.


Lynette Adams

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