Some SNAP benefits could be replaced with food boxes - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Some SNAP benefits could be replaced with food boxes

The box, coined as "USDA America's Harvest Box," would include food grown by American farmers including milk, juice, cereals, pasta, canned produce, and more, according to the administration's proposal. (Photo source: WDAM archive) The box, coined as "USDA America's Harvest Box," would include food grown by American farmers including milk, juice, cereals, pasta, canned produce, and more, according to the administration's proposal. (Photo source: WDAM archive)
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

Changes could be coming for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on SNAP benefits in the Pine Belt.

President Donald Trump's administration wants to replace half of SNAP recipients' monthly cash benefits with boxes of food. 

The proposal would affect 38 million people. The people affected are households that receive at least $90 a month in assistance, or 81 percent of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

The box, coined as "USDA America's Harvest Box," would include food grown by American farmers including milk, juice, cereals, pasta, canned produce, and more, according to the administration's proposal.

With the current program, SNAP recipients get money loaded onto an EBT card they can use to buy what they want as long as it falls under the guidelines.   The White House said the plan would save the U.S. nearly $130 billion over 10 years, and reduce the potential for EBT fraud.

Ann McCullen, the Executive Director at the Edwards Street Fellowship Center, said the food pantry serves over 1,300 households a month. Last year, they provided 217-tons of food to the community.  

"Anytime when there is a change to the snap program, at least initially, until people find out what their new normal is going to look like, we will see a surge in our food pantry," McCullen said.

McCullen said the pantry is already operating on limited resources. 

"The thought of that number going up from our current 1300 households a month, anything upwards of that, yeah, how are we going to source that?" said McCullen. "How will we increase donations, what new partnerships can we make with corporate folks to have more food on our shelves."

Another issue to consider is the health of the recipients.

"This is Mississippi, we have a lot of people with high blood pressure and diabetes, a lot of canned food is high in sodium and not the healthiest, unfortunately," McCullen said. 

WDAM 7 reached out to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, for his take on the proposal.  His office provided this statement:

“Senate and House agriculture committees are already working on a new farm bill, including proposals to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and make it more affordable.  I think the administration needs to provide a lot more evidence and justification for the food-box proposal to be accepted by Congress.”

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also provided WDAM 7 with this statement:

“It’s clear the SNAP program needs to be improved. I look forward to working on those changes when the Senate takes up the Farm Bill later this year.”

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