Grocers Reckon With Latest SNAP ‘Harvest Box' Proposal

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Grocers Reckon With Latest SNAP ‘Harvest Box' Proposal

By Bridget Goldschmidt - 02/11/2020
Grocers Reckon With Latest SNAP ‘Harvest Box' Proposal
Food retailers remain critical partners in ensuring that low-income consumers have access to healthy foods through the SNAP program

The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget is out, and among its proposals is a resurrected plan to remake the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a so-called “Harvest Box” full of commodity food items chosen by the program and delivered to participants.

The budget would also slash SNAP funding by about $180 billion between 2021 and 2030 and toughen eligibility requirements, according to The New York Times, which cited a White House official as saying such changes were necessary because too many Americans were still receiving public assistance, despite an improved economy. 

While grocers in general expressed the desire to collaborate with the federal government on honing SNAP to ensure that it continues to help those in need of it, independent food retailers in particular voiced reservations regarding the Harvest Box proposal, which was originally put forward in 2018.

“The grocery industry is proud to partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in perhaps the most successful public-private partnership of the last 50 years – distributing food assistance benefits in the most efficient, affordable and safest ways to every community across the country,” noted Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer at the Arlington, Va.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association.  

Added Hatcher: “We strive every day to create more efficiencies and reduce fraud while eliminating hunger and evolving the SNAP model, and continue to have great success in these goals. Over the years, we’ve increased our focus on providing nutritionally significant products to SNAP customers and to the nationwide network of food banks. As private partners with the government ensuring efficient redemption of SNAP benefits, retailers look forward to continuing to work with the administration to maintain the successes of the SNAP program and reduce red tape and regulations.” 

“Independent grocers are indispensable partners with the federal government [SNAP], serving millions of low-income households in rural and urban areas nationwide,” observed Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the Arlington-based National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent grocery sector. “Once again, a proposal to transform SNAP into a box delivery system was included in the FY 2021 budget proposal, and it remains tremendously concerning to our members. Grocers play a critical role in distributing SNAP benefits to Americans in need in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible, and the Harvest Box proposal would undermine the foundation that the SNAP public-private partnership was built upon. A 2018 economic analysis of the Harvest Box proposal found that, if enacted, the proposal would cost U.S. food retailers $23 billion in sales. The analysis also found that over 211,700 grocery retail jobs would be lost, with a grand total of almost 368,500 direct and indirect job losses throughout the economy.

Continued Ferrara: “Fortunately, the Harvest Box proposal has been rejected in Congress, due to NGA’s vigorous advocacy efforts and concerns from local, independent grocers across the nation over the past two years. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to find commonsense solutions that support Main Street grocers and grow local economies.”