Food box proposal a new low, even for Trump administration

By Editorial Board

President Donald Trump’s administration has gotten creative in exhibiting its disregard for the poor.

A proposal in the administration’s budget request for the 2019 fiscal year would drastically affect low-income people’s access to and choice of food. About half of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients’ benefits would come in a “USDA Foods Package.” Recipients currently use a stored value card with a designated amount of money loaded based on a household’s income to pay for groceries. The measure’s backers laud the idea as a step forward even though it would slash SNAP’s budget by nearly 30 percent. 

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stated recipients will receive part of their benefits in “a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of…the cash.” 

Mulvaney makes the proposal sound like a glamorous re-imagining of SNAP benefits by comparing it to a luxury subscription service that delivers preassembled meal kits that can cost more than $200 a month. Looking deeper at the administration’s description of the food packages, the comparison is laughable. 

The budget proposal described what would be included in the package, detailing “shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables.” The package would not include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rather than taking the age-old approach of disenfranchising low-income people by claiming they are unworthy of a basic necessity like food and simply proposing draconian budget cuts, the administration has cooked up an even more dictatorial plot: Deprive poor people of their agency, restrict their access to vital resources and pretend such despicable actions are revolutionary.

As if the mere notion that low-income people will be able to eat nutritiously and stay healthy through this bureaucratic intrusion wasn’t absurd enough, recent actions by the Trump administration show its ineptitude for logistics that threatens the well-being of millions in the country.

The administration could not even deliver life-saving aid to Puerto Rico as the island struggles to rebuild after the long-term devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was ordered to deliver 30 million meals to Puerto Rican residents in October 2017, and under the supervision of a vendor who had absolutely no experience in large-scale disaster relief, only 50,000 meals were delivered to the island.

The idea that the government spends too much money on a vulnerable group that receives the bare minimum in government assistance continues to unfold as the Pentagon requests one of the largest military budget increases in years. The administration is plainly admitting that fueling a dangerous, destructive war machine is more important than feeding poor families.

There comes a point when it is not even worth trying to refute the Trump administration’s claims with facts. There is no use in desperately reminding citizens that the SNAP budget is eclipsed by our enormous spending on the military when the administration makes the conclusion that too many tax dollars go to feeding the hungry. It is pointless to constantly assert that food stamps account for one of the lowest fraud rates in federal programs when politicians use fictitious criminal poor people as a scapegoat for cutting welfare.

If the administration is blinded by its disdain for the marginalized to the point it considers dictating the diets of millions of people a useful effort, we have moved far past the realm of reality. Facts don’t matter to the leaders who are fueled by their own bigotry because they are bent on using their power to turn the world upside-down.

Angry social media posts, carefully worded opinion pieces and political discourse are not enough. We must continue to make a valiant effort to mobilize and empower leaders who have our best interests at heart.

We have run out of the right words to denounce evil acts; only action will suffice from here.