President Trump — who just passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut primarily for corporations and the wealthy — has a cruel new idea to replace food stamps.
One item in President Trump’s proposed budget is “America’s Harvest Box,” which is a box filled with “shelf-stable” foods like peanut butter, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, and powdered milk proposed as a replacement for food stamps. While Trump compared it to the Blue Apron meal kit delivery service, the harvest boxes wouldn’t contain any fresh fruits or vegetables, as opposed to Blue Apron. Food stamps, in the meantime, can be used for just about any fresh produce in grocery stores.
This proposal would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) to take on the monumental task of preparing and shipping boxes of “shelf-stable” goods to approximately 21 million households each week, according to SNAP data. Additionally, households depending on food stamps who eat strict kosher or halal diets, or who have food allergies, will likely not be able to eat much of what gets sent to them in the harvest boxes. In their defense, the Trump administration claims overhauling food stamps would save taxpayers roughly $129 billion over ten years.
However, there is a definitive health risk to force-feeding America’s poorest citizens a steady diet of canned food. Even though it’s cheaper and lasts longer, canned fruits and vegetables can contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which is used to line the inside of the cans. Over time, this chemical can seep into the food inside, which can potentially cause cancer and lead to birth defects when ingested by pregnant women. Last year, the Center for Environmental Health found BPA in 40 percent of a sample of 250 cans purchased at various supermarkets and bargain stores.
Trump’s proposed replacement for food stamps comes just months after signing into law a generous package of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich, multinational corporations, and heirs to wealthy estates. The final version of the legislation Trump signed exempts heirs inheriting less than $22.4 million from a couple from paying the tax, whereas the previous threshold was $11.2 million for couples ($5.5 million for an individual). Even prior to the widening of the estate tax threshold, the tax applied to only the estates of the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans.
Meanwhile, corporations will have their reduced tax rate of 21 percent (down from 35 percent) go into effect permanently, while individual tax cuts expire after 2027. While the richest will see their tax rate reduced from 37 percent to 29.6 percent, individual tax cuts for lower-income Americans will go up over time. The Joint Committee on Taxation’s review of the bill found that the tax rate for Americans making between $20,000 and $30,000 would be roughly 26 percent higher by 2027 compared to 2017.
Even though the idea for changing food stamps has been laid out in President Trump’s proposed budget, it’s unlikely to be implemented in the near future considering Trump recently signed a completely different two-year spending plan into law. However, it’s likely the proposal could resurface in future budget debates in Congress.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.