Food in a Box!!!

The Trump Administration is seeking to overhaul the food stamps program.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney was super pleased to announce that instead of receiving massive tax cuts, wealthy individuals would henceforth be sent boxes of random luxury goods in the mail chosen by the government.

Oh wait, that didn’t happen.  Because that would be ridiculous.

No, he instead announced that the Trump Administration is seeking to overhaul the food stamps program by replacing some of the recipients’ benefits with monthly boxes of American “homegrown” products.

Hey, and who says Republicans don’t love poor people?

Look at that, those kindly Republicans saving these unfortunate impoverished souls the hassle of doing their own shopping.  Or the bother of thinking. Or choosing. Or living with a touch of freedom or dignity.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, ,
Michael Bailey
About Michael Bailey
Michael is Associate Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College in Rome, GA. His academic publications address the American Founding, the American presidency, religion and politics, and governance in liberal democracies. He also writes on popular culture, and his articles on, among other topics, patriotism, Church and State, and Kurt Vonnegut, have been published in Prism and Touchstone. He earned his PhD from the University of Texas in Austin, where he also earned his BA. He’s married and has three children. He joined OTB in November 2016.


  1. An Interested Party says:

    Is it any wonder that Republicans have the reputation of being cruel heartless a$$holes…

  2. This all goes to the conservative obsession with the idea that everyone receiving subsidiies to buy food are using it to buy Lobster and other products that ordinary Americans can’t afford.

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Small Government Republicans, determining what the unfortunate should eat.

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Wonder how they are going to deal with food allergies and other dietary restrictions?
    Also…the touted budget savings DO NOT include delivery.

  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    OT…the FBI says the White House is lying about what they knew about Porter and when they knew it. Shocking, I know…

  6. Scott says:

    Another great idea is to use potato and other root crop peelings, box them up and send to the needy folks to make hot nourishing soup.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Actually, this could work if a) people receiving food boxes could pick what they wanted, b) fresh vegetables, meat, and other perishables were included, and c) fridges (with locks) were provided at any drop-off locations (complete with power supply).

    Such a system might a) encourage people to eat more veggies and fruits b) get rid of the problem of food deserts, and c) help people save time.

    HOWEVER, I suspect that the idea is to offload surplus stuff in cans that the U.S. Military bought years ago during the Cold War, found in a forgotten warehouse, and is now trying to dispose of.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    As a guy who gets virtually everything delivered by Instacart (groceries), DoorDash (take-out), Marin Gardens (weed) and Amazon (everything else) despite having three perfectly usable cars in the driveway, I have some sympathy for this idea of delivery. Hook recipients up with an Instacart account that uses food stamps, no problem. I was poor and carless for a long time and though I never had to use food stamps if I had, delivery would have been great.

    But, oh, by the way, delivery is rather expensive. If I order $100 in groceries it costs me $130 or so after delivery charge and tip. The way it works now, the food stamp recipient ends up walking, or driving, or taking a bus – all three wastes of potentially productive time and a hit to the wallet – and puts all that on the federal government. So delivery is on the taxpayer. Paying to cover legal liability (botulism, anyone?) is on the taxpayer. The related costs – the inevitable nutritional panels, legislation, lobbying, carve-outs for preferred vendors – all on the taxpayer.

    In other words, in an effort to stigmatize poor people, Republicans propose to add cost and size to the federal government. Because of course.

    But, hmmm, I wonder if there could be another motive? If we were to be logical about it we’d run the program through the most efficient company around when it comes to delivering anything: Amazon. And Trump loves Bezos, right? And if not Amazon then who? Can anyone think of a large corporation that is desperate to stop Amazon? Perhaps a company owned by a family of right-wing billionaires? Maybe headquartered in Arkansas? Anyone?

  9. Michael Bailey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    You’re right, of course. And, yes, I’ve kind of assumed the worst. I don’t think without some grounds. I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    OT: Lizards spy on Iran’s nuclear program?.

    Next they’ll be accusing Bat Boy. When did this world mutate into Weekly World News?

  11. Matt Bernius says:

    Given the constant populist conservative complaints that the government cannot even get the mail right, I have a hard time seeing how they think that the government will be able to successfully implement an infinitely more complex system.

    Additionally, this ultimately will hurt a large number of local businesses (often small businesses and farmers in areas like mine) who count on SNAP vouchers as part of their income. Despite all the “horror stories” about abuses within the system, if you come down to Rochester NY’s wonderful public market on any given Saturday, you’ll see a lot of people using vouchers to buy fresh and cheap produce direct from local small farmers.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Maybe headquartered in Arkansas? Anyone?

    Speaking of which, if one were engaged in a slow motion Saturday Night Massacre, having your buddies in Arkansas offer someone a mil a year or whatever to leave would be a pretty good tactic. The new next in line to Rosentein, Noel Francisco, looks typecast for the role of Robert Bork.

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s more fundamental. They believe one should receive as much liberty and choice as their income can buy. Hence the poor shall receive neither.

  14. michael reynolds says:


  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    Exactly, because money = morality. The poor are poor because they deserve to be, the rich are rich because they, too, deserve it. It’s all part of God’s plan, can’t you see that? In their little shrunken hearts they still believe in deus vult. Billionaires have it all because clearly God has set them above mere mortals. Because they’re just better than we are. So shut up, peasant, and gobble up the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.

  16. Matt Bernius says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Exactly, because money = morality.

    And that is why everyone needs to read Max Weber. 🙂

    Also, Michael Bailey, thanks for all the great posts!

  17. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans want to party like it’s 1834 again.

    Bring back those lovely Poor Laws. Britain did this kind of thing back in the early 19th century. – that is, get as far away from giving the poor cash assistance, rather, make them show some effort, make them show us that although we don’t trust them, they can show us that they’re, in some small way, deserving whatever assistance we deign to provide. And damn it, they’ll like it.

    We, collectively, are really lost.

  18. Pete S says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Given the constant populist conservative complaints that the government cannot even get the mail right, I have a hard time seeing how they think that the government will be able to successfully implement an infinitely more complex system.

    Bingo. Checks and vouchers can get distributed on time pretty reliably. But I have a feeling I know where the food delivery contract will go:

  19. Tyrell says:

    A “Happy Meal”?

  20. Franklin says:

    @grumpy realist: I was thinking along those lines. Currently, people using food stamps have the ability to purchase healthy food like fresh vegetables. Boxed food and crap sitting in BPA-lined cans for years is probably not quite as healthy. But hey, maybe the plan is to kill off or sterilize those pesky poor people.

    P.S. I do realize that, like most Americans, the percentage of poor people buying healthy food is probably low. But at least they currently have that option.

  21. Kathy says:

    This is pretty much how welfare is handled in Mexico, and I think in some other Latin American countries.

    I know a bit about the subject. What goes in those boxes may be a useful supplement, but in no way are they enough to feed a small family.

    It’s ironic the Trumpians would want to copy the Mexican model, given their boss’ prejudices.

  22. Mister Bluster says:
  23. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Kathy: Interesting. How does Mexico handle allergies and other conditions in those boxes? Is there a trade market of some sort for people to exchange items they can’t eat (or simply don’t like)?

    Not that I trust THIS government to actually get it right, but I always wish we’d draw on experiences from the rest of the world when deciding policy in this country, and I wasn’t even aware this was out there.

  24. Kathy says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    Interesting. How does Mexico handle allergies and other conditions in those boxes? Is there a trade market of some sort for people to exchange items they can’t eat (or simply don’t like)?

    I haven’t the faintest idea (sorry). I suppose people can sell products they don’t want or can’t eat, but there’s no established market I know of.

    These programs are handled at the state level (and some at the local level), and they vary by state. there’s much emphasis in vegetable proteins (soy and beans mostly), plus added vitamins and essential minerals in products like milk and cornmeal. Meat is usually limited to small cans of tuna. Everything in the box has a long shelf life (mostly because the states can then stockpile the boxes for months if needed). So it’s all dried and canned goods. A few states in addition distribute fresh fruit. I’d say the typical family box has between 7 and 15 different products, depending on the state.

    I don’t know if they’re distributed by family, by family member, or a number of boxes according to family size. I also don’t know if they’re handed out monthly or more often. I do know they’re not delivered. People pick them up at government warehouses or distribution centers scattered all over.

  25. Liberal Capitalist says:

    For a group of folks that want to decrease the size of Government, the complexity of this undertaking would be massive.

    The US would have to create many regional distribution centers, entire sub-organizations to ccordinate, then distribute, with the costs incudded for all that.

    All that massive governemnet program growth to replace an already existing “food credit” card, with a US based distribution system called “the local grocery store”.

    Seriously, the grocery industry will revolt.

    Is their intent to say: “Hey, we tried, we may as well cancel it all as APPARENTLY it is undoable” and to eliminate another part of the social safty net?


    Ignorant rich people.

    Maybe they should watch Mel Brooks in “Life Stinks” to at least get them a clue.

  26. Tyrell says:

    @Scott: How about giving them some food from the local public school lunchroom? You would hear an uproar and protest like we haven’t seen seen since the Sugar Act!
    “paper-onI pizza”
    “Chicken buggets”
    “scorn dogs”
    “flossed salad”

  27. Michael Bailey says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Heya, thank you!

    It was either writing columns or doing grading. But now I have to pay the piper.

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Michael Bailey: We’d all be happy to have you (and the rest of us for that matter) proven wrong on this. It’s really too bad that it’s not gonna happen!

  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: As a person with food allergies–topping off at about 60 different items at the peak when I was young–I would see the situation as one where even if there are foods that one family member has sensitivities to, the expansion of the larder would probably make it easier for the family at large to address the needs of the food-sensitive person. (My experience is also that families with more than one member having food allergies are relatively rare, but sensitivity profiles have been changing and it’s been a long time since I worried about the problem as I was able to stabilize my diet fairly well.) As a single person, I expect that I would neither use, nor probably qualify for such assistance.

  30. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Is their intent to say: “Hey, we tried, we may as well cancel it all as APPARENTLY it is undoable” and to eliminate another part of the social safty net?

    I’ll go with that as a theory. I’m always up for embracing my inner cynic.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    Depressing as this story is, it did give me one glorious moment of envisioning Steve Ballmer’s tax cut arriving in the form of 4271 Toyota Camrys…