Trump’s ‘Blue Apron-type’ food boxes for the poor could slash spending at Walmart and dollar stores

source
Reuters

  • The Trump administration is proposing to replace cash benefits for food with boxed groceries, which would reduce low-income families’ food spending.
  • The proposal would impact more than 16 million people – or roughly 81% of those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, according to the Department of Agriculture.
  • Walmart, the largest grocer in the US, could feel the biggest impact. About 18% of all food stamps were redeemed at Walmart in 2013, which is the latest year that the company disclosed that figure.

The Trump administration wants to reduce the amount of cash it pays in food stamp benefits to low-income families, and send them boxes of food instead.

The White House says the program, called “America’s Harvest Box,” would save taxpayers $214 billion over a decade.

But those savings could come at a staggering cost to dollar stores, Walmart, and other retailers that serve low-income families.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney compared “America’s Harvest Box” to Blue Apron, a meal-kit service that delivers fresh produce and meat to customers’ doorsteps.

“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 said.

But unlike Blue Apron, “America’s Harvest Box” would contain mostly packaged goods like “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish,” according to the president’s budget proposal.

The proposal would impact more than 16 million people – or roughly 81% of those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, according to the Department of Agriculture.

If the program is approved, it would slash the amount of cash those shoppers have to spend on food, directly impacting the stores they frequent.

Walmart, the largest grocer in the US, could feel the biggest impact. About 18% of all food stamps were redeemed at Walmart in 2013, which is the latest year that the company disclosed that figure.

At dollar stores including Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree, food stamps account for roughly 5% of total sales, Bloomberg reports, citing Gordon Haskett Research Advisors analyst Chuck Grom.

Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar, declined to comment on the proposal. Walmart and Dollar General did not immediately respond to requests for comment.