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March 7, 2018

Concern Over Trump's Food Stamp Plan 'Overblown'

IPI expert referenced: Merrill Matthews | In The News | Media Hit
  One News Now

By Chris Woodward

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and that may be proven true if a plan involving food stamps becomes reality. Still, OneNewsNow found someone who likes the proposed approach.

Carl Lewis owns a small grocery store near government housing in Rankin, Pennsylvania. While Lewis sells a variety of packaged and snack foods, he also offers cooking classes and a source of fresh, healthy food. Lewis tells The Associated Press that he even has customers sign a pledge that if he provides fresh produce, they'll buy it. To make the pledge more enticing, customers purchasing five produce items will get the sixth free.

The story from AP comes as the Trump administration is considering replacing part of the food stamp program with a box of American-produced food. The so-called USDA "America's Harvest Box" would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. The box would be valued at about half of a SNAP recipient's monthly benefit. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards, as before. But that means fewer people frequenting grocery stores like the one Carl Lewis operates.

"I think it's probably an overblown concern," responds Dr. Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation. "They'd still have some food stamps to go out and buy what they want; and secondly, I suspect stores could become a qualified provider in this [effort]."

Matthews points out the food boxes would also guarantee quality foods. "Soft drinks, ice cream, cookies and candy are all acceptable under the EBT food stamp program, and the box that the president is talking about would be something much better for them," he explains.

Matthews says the lack of restrictions on many food items is an attempt by the government not to disparage people who are on or are looking to enroll in food stamps.

"However, obesity among low-income families and especially among low-income children is significantly higher than it is in the standard population," says Matthews. "That's because they often times make poor choices or they don't have time to get fresh fruits and vegetables because one or more parents is working and packaged foods are the easiest thing to do at mealtime."

USDA tells OneNewsNow that the proposal would save $129.2 billion over the ten-year period between FY2019 and FY 2028. This estimate accounts for about $2.5 billion annually in additional administrative funds for states.


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