On February 10, U.S. President Donald Trump released his proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which came in at a record high of $4.8 trillion.

“As we enter the 2020s, our nation confronts new challenges and opportunities,” wrote the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in the proposed budget [pdf]. “The 21st century requires us to focus on great power rivals; prioritize artificial intelligence, 5G, and industries of the future; and to protect our research and environment from foreign government influence. To meet these challenges and seize these opportunities, we must shift the government out of its old and outdated ways.”

In terms of food security, one area that took a hit in the budget was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The administration gave final approval in December 2019 to a rule that will remove nearly 700,000 people from the program by strictly enforcing federal work requirements. In addition to these previous changes, the new budget proposes a cut of about $180 billion to SNAP funding between 2021 and 2030.

It proposes one set of work requirements for adults aged 18–65 unless they qualify for specific exemptions. There would no longer be different requirements for adults with children. All adults who are able to work “would be required to work, participate in job training, or volunteer at least 20 hours a week in order to receive SNAP benefits,” according to the proposed budget.

In addition, the budget resurrects the Harvest Box program, an effort initially proposed in the 2019 budget whereby SNAP-participating households would receive a box of shelf-stable foods selected by the government to replace a share of their food stamp benefits. The administration claims the program would save taxpayer dollars since the government can buy at wholesale prices. Still, many Democrats and antihunger advocates argue that it would place a heavy burden on individual states to implement and take away an individual’s right to choose his/her food.

“The budget also keeps Mr. Trump’s controversial ‘Harvest Box’ proposal in place, continuing to suggest that poor Americans who receive SNAP benefits get a portion of their benefit in a ‘Harvest Box’ full of food preselected for nutritional value and economic benefit to American farmers,” writes reporter Lola Fadulu in The New York Times. “The cache of cheaper peanut butter, canned goods, pasta, cereal, ‘shelf stable’ milk, and other products would now be selected by the federal government, not by the people eating it.”

The administration, however, sees the need to revise the SNAP program to “promote self-sufficiency.”

“As a primary component of the social safety net, SNAP participation grew to historic levels during the recession,” said the administration in the budget. “However, despite significant economic improvement and a strong job market, participation has not yet declined to pre-recession levels, and too many people are still missing the opportunity to move from dependence to self-sufficiency.”

2021 Budget (pdf)

The New York Times article

In This Article

  1. Food Policy
  2. Food Security

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