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The 5 Biggest Problems with Trump’s Harvest Boxes

The 5 Biggest Problems with Trump’s Harvest Boxes

Upset about Trump “fixing” our current food stamps program with Harvest Boxes? You should be. It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible idea that will never function as its designers intend. It oversimplifies a complex problem with a one-size-fits-all solution that really fits nobody at all.

The Harvest Box plan calls for boxes of American-made and produced foods to be sent to households who receive $90 or more in SNAP benefits each month. This federal program would let the states determine how the boxes would be delivered. A certain amount of benefits would be deducted for the boxes and the remaining funds would be disbursed onto the EBT cards.

Problem #1 – What about allergies? Dietary restrictions? Ethnic food choices? 

The Harvest Box would contain prepackaged, shelf-stable foods like peanut butter, pasta and canned meats. Basically, it provides goods that are readily available at most food banks… but even the people in charge of the food banks think this is a bad idea. Matt Knott, president of the nationwide food bank network Feeding America, said, “We view this as an unworkable solution in search of a problem.”

One of the biggest challenges this program would encounter is the need for customized boxes. You simply can’t ship the same foods to every SNAP household in America. Some households have serious allergies (especially to popular shelf-stable foods like peanut butter). Some households have dietary restrictions, like gluten or dairy intolerance. Some families prefer ethnic food choices that would be expensive, difficult or impractical to include in these boxes.

Problem #2 – What about fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy food choices?

The Harvest Box would not include any fresh fruit or vegetables. It restricts a low income family’s access to healthy, life-sustaining foods and instead forces those families to choose unhealthier but more affordable shelf-stable, processed and boxed food choices.

This is a problem. As this study in the Diabetes Journal concludes, “people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity… It has been suggested that individuals who live in impoverished regions have poor access to fresh food… In many poverty-dense regions, people are in hunger and unable to access affordable healthy food.”

Low income families in America need more options for healthy food choices. They need more options for fresh fruit and vegetables. Not less.

Under the current system, food stamps recipients can use their EBT cards at farmer’s markets around the US. Many markets even offer a Double Up Food Bucks program that literally doubles the amount of produce you receive for your money. This invaluable program is usually limited to food stamps users and has helped solve Problem #2 above. With these Harvest Boxes, families who use this program may not be able to continue stocking their kitchens with fresh produce all summer long.

Problem #3 – Those cost-savings estimates are bogus because they ignore most of the costs. 

Despite the claims that the Harvest Boxes would save the government money on food stamps, the reality is the exact opposite. In the same reports touting a $130-150 billion savings over 10 years, I also found suspicious statements like “what is in the boxes is also left largely up to the states” and “the logistics of delivery would be largely left to the discretion of the states.” It sounds to me like this very undeveloped plan just shunts the responsibility away from the federal government without a clear plan of what it will cost and who is going to pay for it.

As Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer for the Food Marketing Institute said, ““Perhaps this proposal would save money in one account, but based on our decades of experience in the program, it would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings.”

In the end, I suspect the Harvest Boxes would be more expensive than the current food stamps setup.

Problem #4 – It will take a whole new bureaucracy to manage this program.

In order to resolve the other four problems, the government will have to establish a new bureaucratic agency to manage the boxes. It will take a number of people to figure out how the boxes work, how they’re filled and how they are distributed to low income residents of all 3,142 counties and county equivalents across the United States. There will be a federal agency. There will be state agencies. There will be laws and regulations and red tape. There will be hundreds of employees. And this is supposed to be cheaper than just continuing the program as it is? I don’t think so.

Problem #5 – Harvest Boxes would destroy the economy of small towns and businesses that rely on EBT funds. 

The small businesses that power the economy in severely low income areas could be utterly destroyed without the influx of food stamps funds each month. This article in the Washington Post explains the boom-and-bust economy cycle in the small town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where businesses and residents rely on the precious food stamps dollars that keep food on the table and money in the paychecks of the town’s employees.

For towns like Woonsocket, the Harvest Box program could destroy the businesses that provide the jobs that support the families… sending the town spiraling into even more desperate circumstances.

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Now here’s the good (and not so good) news…

It’s fairly obvious what an awful idea this is, so it’s been met with widespread disapproval.

Representative Jim McGovern of Massachussets is the ranking Democrat on the committee that oversees federal food assistance programs. He said, “I think it’s dead on arrival — I hope it is — but either way it’s a cruel joke.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the agricultural committee, said, “I don’t think there’s really any support for their box plan. And I worry that it’s a distraction from the budget’s proposal to cut SNAP by some 30 percent. That’s the real battle. The dangers are these other proposals to cut benefits. But all anyone is talking about today are the boxes. This isn’t a serious proposal and is clearly meant to be a distraction.”

It’s not too late to have your voice heard. Contact your elected officials and voice your concern about SNAP funding. Specifically, contact your US Senators and Representatives! You can click here for an easy link. 

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Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.


Monday 26th of February 2018

Something else about the program People such as myself. I am totally disabled. And we will be targeted for crime. I rarely had to move. From my one house because 3 people broke in at 330 in the morning with knives. Big ones. They rustled my phone. They got that away from me, I was trying to call the police. The only thing that saved me, I asked, because I had an alarm system. They ran out with. A few items, but I was still alive. The police showed up. I was able to identify 2 of them. They had warrants for their arrest and their mo was to. Go after the elderly and disabled. These drivers, we are not going to know who they are. Their background or their family members, they're going to have a list of all of us that are vulnerable to crime. The elderly, disabled single mothers with children. What about a national disaster? Right now, in the state of Michigan, we have floods going on all around us. People being evacuated from their homes. How are they going to get food to people that Are in a middle of a National disaster There's enough chaos just to get organized and not have to worry about food deliveries, such as what if your food delivery is on a day a tornado is going through your town, I live in Michigan, tornadoes come through here, quite a bit and neighborhoods get torn up. We all have. A plan already set in place. This is only going to make things worse for people such as myself. And at lately scares me because I moved to a neighborhood to get away from crime because I'm disabled my neighbors all work were already getting hate on the internet because of this program Eat or die that's just one nice comment. What about people with allergies I am allergic to GMOs I have proof I've already been through 2 surgeries cannot have it repeated a third time my stomach literally comes undone from the esophagus They will not be able to put a feeding tube in and they cannot repeat this surgery. A third time the disease I have is called complex regional pain syndrome. I'm full body and internal is the world's most painful disease known to man. I also have dystonia Movement disorder. My bones are literally twisted. I don't even own a pair of shoes. When I go to the grocery store, not only do I have my coupons in hand But I also use an app to save more money. Every item that I buy there is a one eight hundred number on there I call every month to get coupons to save extra money last month I saved over 70 dollars. I do not buy junk food, I'm totally GMO free organic, no chemicals, no sugars, no dairies, I cannot eat those products in my stomach swells up I die. I'm not alone in this situation at all. What about flint, Michigan. They have no access to clean water. They already have enough problems getting their daily need of water, they're talking about powdered milk and beans and things like that those take water to cook or make. What about our vets that go to war? Come back disabled, you're gonna tell me they don't have a choice to eat what they want or pick out the foods, which good for their family. What about religious groups???? There is a different way to approach us cut out all junk food. Make healthy foods more affordable. And available Check our ids when we check out of the grocery store I have no problem with that And put certain foods on a no food stamp list. End of rant.

PS I did call our state representative right before. The floods here in Michigan. And that was one of my biggest concerns. A national disaster. And look what just happened.


Monday 4th of June 2018

Excellent points, Sam. Thanks for sharing!