There are so many obvious problems with the “America’s Harvest Box” proposal floated by the Department of Agriculture that many people thought the idea was a joke. The proposal would replace half of all SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, with boxes of nonperishable food items. Pitched as a cost saver, delivery alone would probably increase SNAP’s cost to the taxpayer. But the foundational flaw with the proposed reform is the stripping away of choice, and the dignity that comes with it, from low-income Americans.
That a party dedicated in principle to limited government should seek to standardize and control from Washington what goes onto the plates of millions of families across the country reveals a paternalistic suspicion that the hungry are not as worthy of freedom as the rest of us. Thankfully, the Trump administration has said that given the extent of the backlash, the program is unlikely to be implemented.
Yet the erroneous notion that poor people are frivolous spenders buying junk food and luxurious food items persists. The state of Wisconsin, for example, is on the verge of passing stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients. Meanwhile, food insecurity affects millions of Americans. A recent study showed existing SNAP benefits already are insufficient to cover basic meals in large areas of the country.
Needing food assistance should not be a mark of shame. The assault on the dignity of the poor and the hungry continues in the richest country on earth.