WHITE CENTER, Wash. — Even on an off-day, the White Center Food Bank doesn’t stop. It has just been too busy for too long.
“Starting at the beginning of the recession, it turned into you, me, and anybody,” said Director of Operations John Carney.
He says the news headlines out of the White House proposing a change to food stamps, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) is “a bombshell.”
“It’s offensive in the extreme,” he said.
It’s being called a “Harvest Box” by the White House. The new budget proposal trades some food stamps for a one-size-fits-all box.
“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,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. “It lowers the cost to us because we can buy [at wholesale prices] whereas they have to buy it at retail. It also makes sure they’re getting nutritious food. So we’re pretty excited about that.”
Dry goods — only with no choices and nothing fresh, and lacking the flexibility like the food bank.
“I think it’s shameful. I mean, what kind of a community do we want to live in today?” asked manager Carolynn Ferris.
She says it goes completely against the evolving nature of food and social programs. They give vouchers for veggies and fruit and grow their own on site.
She says the Harvest Box SNAP replacement is dehumanizing. It’s a step back into the past of food lines and rationing.
“But at the end of the day, that’s not very honoring of clients. It still very much feels like a handout,” Ferris said.
The White House’s budget office says half of the current SNAP benefits would go to the take-it-or-leave-it boxes. The rest would go on cards like normal.
Yes, free food is helpful. But it sends a message.
“Hey, we’re going to lump this group of people together and we’re going to treat them all the same. The track record on that is poor,” Carney said.
Food banks are just one part of the safety net with SNAP and WIC. To Carney, an attack on one is an attack on all.
“That’s what makes this country great is that we have all this excess and if you need it, we’ll share it with you. Because you need help and well, if we’re not helping our neighbors, what the hell are we doing?” he said.
The White House budget office estimates the switch could save $130 billion over 10 years.