When you think of politics, odds are your mind doesn't jump to food, but for about 1 in 8 Americans, the two things are powerfully connected.  Roughly 42.2 million Americans use food stamps to help pay for food to feed themselves and their families.  Like many other welfare programs, food stamps are a constant issue of debate and controversy.  Some people feel that this program has expanded to be too large and at risk to fraud and is an insufficient use of taxpayer dollars.  Others feel that this is an essential plan to keep poor Americans from starving.  No matter what side you fall on, it is important to be aware of the debate and the ideas that the new administration has to tackle the issue.  On Monday, February 12, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, spoke in a press conference and announced an idea that half of the benefits of food stamps will be revamped with a Blue Apron-style food box.

Back It Up: What Are Food Stamps?

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Shelby Cohron

The food stamp program is one that gives poor Americans money so that they can afford to buy food.  According to CNN Money, not just anyone is eligible for food stamps; their gross monthly income must be below 130% of the poverty line or about $26,600 a year for a family of three.  Not only that but

their net income (aka their earnings after all deductions have been taken) must also be at or below the poverty line. If these guidelines weren't enough, there is also a rule that families without an elderly or disabled person can't have more than $2,250 in assets, while those with such a member can't have more than $3,500. Families use a prepaid card to pay for their food, and there are restrictions in place on what they can and cannot buy.

Who's Using Them?

About 1 in 8 Americans is using food stamps to help pay for their food.  CNN says that in 2016, 44% of food stamp recipients were children, and 12% were senior citizens older than age 60. There was a spike in food stamp users during the Great Recession, so the numbers have been declining since then.  

What Exactly Are the Benefits?

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Cherie Mak

CNN reports that food stamps can give a family of three about $376 a month, on average.  If you think about how much your family usually spends at the grocery store, it's pretty clear that this does not cover most family's food for the entire month; it is only a supplemental aide.  

So What is Trump's Plan?

The plan announced on Monday is definitely out of the box and shocked a lot of people.  NBC News reported that Mulvaney announced that President Trump wants to scale back the program and replace food stamps with a "food box" delivery program.  The plan is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will redesign the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) as "America's Harvest Box,"  and over 16 million households will experience a shift where half of their benefits are put towards the food box delivery program.  Mulvaney compared these boxes to be in the style of Blue Apron.  

What The F%*k is Blue Apron?

Blue Apron is a revolutionary food delivery service.  Essentially, you pay to have high-quality ingredients delivered to your door, and they give you a step-by-step recipe delivered to your door.  The company has about 1 million subscribers and is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.  

Let's Make a Pro/Con List

This idea is already controversial.  Team Trump says the plan would cut SNAP benefits by $17.2 billion in 2019, about 22 percent of the program's total cost last year. USDA claims the new plan would save $129.2 billion over 10 years, according to NBC.  Other people aren't so sure. According to Politico, Food retailers are questioning the efficiency of this plan. "Perhaps this proposal would save money in one account, but based on our decades of experience in the program, it would increase costs in other areas that would negate any savings,” Jennifer Hatcher, the trade group's chief public policy officer told the publication.  There are still lots of questions about how these boxes will be reached by families in smaller, rural areas, households without a functioning kitchen, how allergies will come into play, and how healthy these ingredients will be. 

Whatever you feel about this proposal, remember that everyone has a voice in our democracy.  If this issue makes it to Congress, call your local representative and let them know how you feel.  And remember that Blue Apron is a business, not a governmental entity.