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News Opinion

Trump Stamps Out SNAP Production for Unfinished Proposal

With the newly proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, President Donald Trump is attempting to steer America’s hungry population down a road with no pavement, speed limit, or direction.

The newly proposed, “America’s Harvest Box” project, aims to deliver all that a family would need, in terms of nutrition, without the hassle of choosing your food for yourself via food stamps. It seems making America great again means controlling even the most basic of human functions — finding your own food.

By taking that one factor of agency away from the people that might need that freedom the most, Trump is effectively force feeding a nation with these “Harvest Boxes.”

Fiscally, it’s fraught with doublespeak and underlying costs.

Reducing the Department of Agriculture’s budget by nearly 30 percent, or over $200 billion, in the next 10 years, with only four pages of text is reckless. Changing the way people eat their food should take a little longer than a college newspaper’s length to be deemed a considerable amount.

The idea alone seems Orwellian; having a pre-packaged box of food delivered to your doorstep instead of being able to choose for yourself makes the recipients seem like inmates.

Recipients of food stamps have long since adjusted to the workings of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), yet the entire system is up for a rehaul with this new proposal.

While SNAP doesn’t live up to its idealistic standards, it got the job done. One of the problems with SNAP was the restrictions on what families can and can’t buy from certain stores. Things like diapers or other hygienic household supplies seem to be missing from the list of available purchases for these families.

However, that one problem doesn’t require a complete overhaul of a system that’s been helping families survive and thrive. Such families were still able to buy what foods they personally needed, accounting for allergies and certain nutritional needs.

But with the Harvest Box, these particulars are dismissed entirely. Each house will be receiving the same box full of, “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables,” according to the USDA.

It seems President Trump’s already assumed detached perception of reality is verified as he sees the over 16 million households to be identical in their diets.

The idea, as quoted by the White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, is akin to that of the Blue Apron program, whose stocks fell lower than Trump’s approval ratings in 2017, and hasn’t been able to keep a customer longer than 2 years.

With more than 41 million people eligible for the box, this plan needs to get some fine tuning and have some questions answered, like whether or not the shipping costs will be covered, or whether or not it can accommodate food allergies or religious specificities.

Though the nutritional and food security these SNAP recipients have been granted thus far hasn’t been stellar, it still has been working for them.

Seeing as the amount of people receiving SNAP benefits has lessened since 2016 shows that despite controversy, the program is helping those in need of it, and that’s something to be optimistic about.

The administration posits that the change is due in part of the rate of fraud going on with the cards that SNAP recipients use. However, the rate of fraud in these cases is less than 2 percent, or less than $3 billion, according to the USDA.

With no consideration to specifics or attention to the public, these changes are nothing more than the transcribed pontifications of an old, delusional and out-of-touch President.

Thankfully, this proposal is just that, a proposal, and any chance of it actually coming to fruition lays in the hands of Congress, which hopefully has enough sense to see through this feckless idea.

Photo: Salvation Army USA West // Flickr

 

Categories
Health News Packaged Food

House Of Representatives Passes Budget Containing Food Stamps Cuts Of At Least $10 Billion

When the new budget for the federal government is finally passed, there’s a good chance that billions of dollars will be cut from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides and issues food stamps. A budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week could bring the food stamps cuts total to well over $10 billion.

food stamps cuts

Photo: Paul Sableman on Flickr

The Sentinel reports that the House’s passed budget would cut $10 billion from SNAP over 10 years, but also recommends an additional $150 billion in cuts over that same time frame. Newsweek also reports a total in $150 billion in cuts to poverty programs in the $4.1 trillion budget, a slash in spending that affects SNAP as well. The initial $10 billion in spending decreases alone could force anywhere from about 150,000-550,000 families out of the program per year.

The House recommends that the reductions come from restructuring the program to make less people eligible, cap the available amount of money for qualifying households, and asks states to pay more for their share of the program. Jared Call from California Food Policy Advocates told Newsweek that for the Golden State, their pay increase could amount to as much as $1.8 billion as a result.

Currently, 93 percent of federal SNAP funding is spent on food, with the remainder going to administrative costs.

SNAP has seen a decrease in enrollment in recent years, which is mainly attributed to the economy’s improvement since the Great Recession. However, only about 75% of eligible participants enroll for SNAP, largely because many don’t know that they qualify or simply find the application process too complex to complete. With 1 in 6 Americans going hungry every year, a number that exceeds almost any developed nation, programs like SNAP exist to help alleviate national food security issues.

For those wondering if and when the House’s budget will become law, it will first need to be reconciled with the Senate’s budget, which aims to be passed next week. The final budget agreed upon by both houses of Congress would then be sent to the President for signature or veto. It remains to be seen just how much of the SNAP cuts will make it into that final appropriations bill as of now.

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Culture Drinks Opinion Products

The DAIRY PRIDE Act Is Poorly Written, Big Dairy Propaganda

A couple of months ago, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the “DAIRY PRIDE” Act into Congress. The bill, now in committee, aims to cut the legs out of the rapidly growing plant-based industry by preventing items like almond milk, soymilk, or cashew cheese from using dairy-related names.

However, the DAIRY PRIDE act is a poorly constructed bill that takes down swaths of other products alongside plant-based dairy and may even be unconstitutional in the first place, all while doing nothing to help the milk industry recover sales numbers, which is the whole aim of writing and introducing this bill in the first place.

The milk industry has been on a long trend of decline over the past 30 years. According to the Journal Sentinel, milk consumption has now fallen to 50% as sales tumbled over the past three decades. Following an increase in milk production due to shortages in the supply two years ago, massive excesses of milk now exist. The Wall Street Journal reports that this has led to a 36% drop in milk prices since 2014 and has forced farmers to dump over 43 million gallons of milk that they were unable to sell off last year.

Big milk would like to see that milk be sold rather than discarded, but consumers aren’t buying milk as much as they used to. So far, they’ve been able to work with the food industry to create cheesier products to use up some of the surplus, but it hasn’t been enough to prevent that milk from being lost.

To recover sales and prevent more milk dumping, big dairy needed to do something drastic. With plant-based dairy rapidly growing and eclipsing $5 billion in market value for the first time, it’s become a target for the milk industry. A bill like this is definitely a welcome boon to the dairy industry as a result.

However, there are a plethora of issues that this bill has that make it ineffective, weak, and possibly unconstitutional.

The bill cites the FDA definition of milk, unchanged since 1938, that is specific to only cows.

“Milk is the lactereal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.”

The DAIRY PRIDE Act aims to strictly enforce this definition. In doing so, plant-based dairy isn’t the only product category that has to change names. Peanut butter and goat cheese would both have to change names to be called something like “Peanut paste” or “goat curds.” Yum.

The bill does get more specific, however, when it targets plant-based dairy multiple times in the opening section of the act, directly calling out plant-based dairy labels as being “misleading to consumers.”

Their reason?

“Imitation dairy products, such as plant-based products derived from rice, nuts, soybeans, hemp, coconut, algae, and other foods that imitate milk, yogurt, and cheese, often do not provide the same nutrition content as real milk, cheese, and yogurt derived from dairy cows.”

As such, the act specifically goes after the plant-based industry and specifically calls them out in the act as “confusing” customers when it clearly doesn’t. We know that soy milk is soy and almond milk is almonds, and to anyone who says consumers can’t read a nutrition label is underestimating the intelligence of consumers. Almond-derived juice would be the basic alternative name, which just sounds… weird. That’s what proponents of the DAIRY PRIDE Act want, though, since it doesn’t sound as appealing. Removing the label doesn’t benefit consumers who are used to the name to begin with.

What’s more, the DAIRY PRIDE Act isn’t just misleading on its own, it may also be unconstitutional. The Good Food Institute wrote a public statement condemning the DAIRY PRIDE Act as “pandering to the dairy industry” through censorship.

“The government is only allowed to restrict commercial free speech if there is substantial government interest in doing so. Simply pandering to the dairy industry does not qualify as a good reason, therefore this legislation would be in violation of the First Amendment.”

Basically, Congress has a choice: pass this law and kill a rapidly growing and innovative industry in a feeble attempt to preserve the death of an already declining one, or leave the law be. If the DAIRY PRIDE act is dropped, plant-based dairy will be allowed to thrive while milk sales would continue to drop, which means farmers just need to produce less milk. They can sell the beef or switch to alternatives.

There is no substantial government interest in enforcing this rule because it does nothing to save the milk industry and is honestly just blatant censorship.

If Congress wants to avoid a meaningless legal battle and prevent their public perception of corruption to fester even more, they should not let this bill leave committee.

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Much Ado About Horse Meat

About a month ago, Congress decided to lift a 5-year long ban on the slaughter of horses for meat. But will the people eat it?

Americans love horses and have a long standing history with the animal dating back to the days of the wild west as writer Josh Ozerski observes. Ozerski also observes that, despite horse being a much healthier alternative to more commonly consumed critters, its place within the hearts of many Americans make it one tough bite to swallow.

I suppose it isn’t too hard to see why that is. It seems that the closer the relationship between a certain animal and man, the harder it is to perceive said animal as a potential meal. I suspect that’s why not too many people are too keen on turning cats and dogs into lunchables snacks.

However, Orzerski writes that the stigma surrounding the consumption of horse meat due to their high regard among people in the US overshadows some of the many benefits of the recent horse meat ban lift.

For one thing, horse meat is extremely lean–much more so than the typical american meat fare. Even PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was able to get behind the horse meat legalization reasoning that having the horses slaughtered in the highly regulated slaughter houses was a much better alternative for the animals than being shipped off in loosely regulated containers to other countries that permit the slaughter of horses for meat.

Despite these endorsements, I still feel that most people find horses to be far too near and dear to themselves to have any desire to eat them. Personally, as an overall food enthusiast, I’m all for broadening the horizons of my personal palette by indulging in new food adventures. With this whole horse meat ban lifted, I think I might get me some horse steak.

(via Time Ideas)

[THNX and Photocred to Wikimedia Commons]

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Congress Declares Pizza Healthy!

A recent proposal by the Department of Agriculture to cut back the amount of pizza and French fries being served to American children is being opposed by Congress. The proposal was intended to reduce the amounts of starchy foods and sodium that school children would be served for lunch daily. This included the tomato paste found in pizzas.

As The New York Daily News puts it:

Food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes, and some conservatives in Congress say the federal government shouldn’t be telling children what to eat.

Apparently if it’s cost effective enough, it’s a vegetable! But hey, we all had to sit through cafeteria pizza. Why should the next generation get any special treatment? We came out okay.

Right?