Cate McCalley wrote:Trump’s proposal for a U. S.A. Harvest Box to replace half of the current food stamp program is in the news. I remember a few of us discussing Food Stamp distribution the poor, and many working poor, are dependent upon to survive.
The idea of boxed commodities surfaced as a way of getting nutrition to people and cutting the waste inherent in the program. Things like the small grocers and big retail chain’s dependency came up. I don’t remember anyone saying a return to ‘commodity’ distribution that preceded exchangeable food stamps, and the EBT debit card had any chance at all to succeed in today’s economy. Mainly because of the retail food industries dependency.
So...the Trump Administration’s ‘U.S.A. Harvest Box’ proposal to cut the government cost of Food Stamps came as a big surprise. Although they made the analogy to it being like the expensive private ‘Blue Apron’ enterprise, the details of the proposal is far from it.
‘Blue Apron’ gives its customer’s a monthly menu choice to select meals, then deliver the exact measured ingredients to prepare those selected meals. Everything needed, fresh produce, dairy, staples, meats, spices, etc. is included in door to door delivered goods. That’s not what a ‘U.S.A Hatvest Box’ would look like.
The commodity distribution of a ‘U.S.A Harvest’ box would contain non-perishable staples, like the foods of the original commodity food distribution program, and be distributed via a public ‘depot centered’ network. Unfortunately it would encounter the same problems the original commodity distribution program had; The poors limited access to food distribution depots, black market sales of costly staples, local graft, stigmatism, etc.
Back in the day of commodity depot distribution, a public bus made daily trips from Harlan to Cumberland, to Evarts, Wallins Creek and served most of the counties rural & remote areas. People could take the bus on ‘Commodity disruption day’ to the depots, stand in long lines in all kinds of weather, receive their food box and return home. No bus line exist today. Though the black market of distribution has survived.
It would be great if Congress could actually figure out how to feed the needy, without wasting billions year after year supporting the greedy. It’s not like Congress hasn’t tried and failed entirely. Schools receive lots of government sponsored bulk staples that provide good nutrition to school children in economically depressed regions. Local Farmers markets, distributing fresh produce & dairy products are now a part of the food stamp program.
One thing Congress hasn’t tried is advancing the Food Stamp program to government sponsored ‘Made In America’ retail superstores. Stores that would distribute food at cost to those with EBT cards, and all other American Made products at competing private retail price with ‘loyalty’ cards like those already wildly popular in retail. The profits from other Made In America non-food items would greatly offset the cost of feeding the needy, without derailing private retail.
Made In America superstores may be a big ‘pie in the sky’ idea. For sure it’s a big idea. But it does have merit and should at least be explored for possibility. We tried the ‘commodity’ program and know the same problems exist that made it obsolete.
Few people could predict the high tech revolution of personal computers only a few decades ago. Our nation has always led innovation. An innovative means to feed our nation’s poor can be a model to other democracies. Or not. For sure doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, is one definition of insanity.
That's good news maybe we can get our Cheese and powdered Milk back.