President Donald Trump's administration has proposed drastic changes this week to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps.
Recipients of the programme typically receive a monthly supplement in the form of a Electronic Benefit Transfer card to buy food. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently has strict restrictions on what can be purchased with these benefits.
As part of the new 2019 budget proposal, recipients would be entered into the new "America's Harvest Box" programme and will receive about half their benefits in the form of a food box, rather than buying the food themselves. The "USDA food package" will include items deemed "nutritious and 100% grown and produced in the US" and would be valued at about half the monthly benefit from the supplemental programme. According to CNN, the change would affect about 38 million people.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the newly proposed plan would resemble a "Blue Apron-type programme." Blue Apron is a company that sells weekly meal service food kits complete with ingredients and recipes to customers who can then cook their meal from scratch at home.
Some of Blue Apron's offerings include beef medallions and scallion salsa verde, salmon and dukkah-spiced vegetables and creamy fusilli bucati pasta with fried rosemary and walnuts, according to their website.
In comparison, the Harvest Box would include items such as "shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables".
"What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don't want to steal somebody's copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash," Mulvaney told reporters at a briefing. "It lowers the cost to us because we can buy [at wholesale prices] whereas they have to buy it at retail. It also makes sure they're getting nutritious food. So we're pretty excited about that."
The new proposal would slash government spending on the programme by $129bn over the next 10 years.
However, the plan has already been fiercely criticised as an "outrageous" idea and a "cruel joke" on people who need it most.
Many pointed out that while Blue Apron offers fresh produce and ingredients based on a customer's choice, the Harvest Box will only offer canned products and cuts off any preferences for the recipient regardless of their dietary needs. Some also questioned how Americans without a car would pick up these food boxes.
"This sounds like something from the Great Depression, not 2018," Democratic Representative Jim McGovern tweeted.
Representative Barbara Lee, who said she raised her children on food stamps, slammed the idea as "offensive". "As a single mother who relied on food stamps to help feed my boys, I can't overstate how offensive this proposal is," Lee's tweet read. "Low-income families need more access to fresh produce & healthy foods, not less."
Other social media users proceeded to mercilessly drag Trump's new proposal with a slew of memes, taunts and comments.
"I used Blue Apron once," one person tweeted. "I can guarantee they don't send canned meat & boxed cereal. Trump is a f**king moron who doesn't care about the health & well-being of families if it makes him money."