On That “Harvest Box”

February 14, 2018

Yesterday, a New York Times article claimed that the president’s proposal to replace a portion of SNAP recipients’ EBT payments with a standard box of shelf-stable foods was “a political gambit by fiscal hawks in the administration aimed at outraging liberals and stirring up members of the president’s own party working on the latest version of the farm bill.”

If that’s true, then it’s safe to say that they’ve accomplished that goal. And that’s worrisome.

There are many arguments against adopting the president’s unproven idea—from the significant additional cost of setting up a national distribution network to the inability of a standard box to meet the nutritional needs of people with specific medical conditions to the denigration of poor people as undeserving of the same level of dignity afforded to all of us.

These arguments are all true, and they are all worthy of our full consideration.

But we at MAZON cannot and must not ignore the second part of the sentiment expressed in the article. Make no mistake: the president wants his party to cut funding for SNAP by any means necessary, without regard for what will happen to those impacted by those cuts. Whether or not the administration actually believes a “harvest box” is a viable solution, the president is deliberately trying to pave the way for massive and destructive structural changes to SNAP, the nation’s most important and effective response to hunger in America. By proposing something truly outrageous, he assumes that when his congressional compatriots propose something less so, it will seem more palatable—and thus be acceptable—by the American public.

We cannot and will not stand by and allow that to happen. There is no circumstance under which we will tolerate the shredding of our nation’s nutrition safety net. We will continue to call out ludicrous proposals as such, and we will continue to do what our Jewish values and ideals teach us: to protect the most vulnerable among us.