Proposal that government pick food for SNAP recipients draws harsh feedback

CINCINNATI – A proposal to change the way the government provides food assistance to low-income Americans is leaving a bad taste with many people.

“We are vegetarian so we need the fresh food,” said Marquetta Walton of Cumminsville, who has three mouths to feed. “You’re sending us a prepackaged meal saying this is what's OK for us to eat,  it's not OK because we don't eat what everybody else eats.”  

“From a nutrition standpoint, when you're talking about delivering processed shelf stable food, that's exactly opposite of what we want to try to promote to get the best health,” said Debbie Serenius, a registered dietitian,

"I think it's a horrible idea," said Tevis Foreman of Produce Perks.

One day after President Trump unveiled his proposal to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), we're hearing a huge outcry. While the president says it could save $130 billion over the next decade, opponents say it will cost more than it saves.

As it stands, SNAP beneficiaries in Ohio get money loaded onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and can buy whatever food they want as long as it fall under government  guidelines.

Under Ohio's new Produce Perks program, local farmer's markets match every SNAP dollar Walton spends (up to $10), so she comes to the Fresh Harvest Mobile Market to get the best bang for her buck.

“This is the freshest it comes,” Walton said.

 Under the president’s budget proposal, Walton would get about half of her food assistance from a package pre-filled by the government – with canned meat, canned fruits and canned vegetables.

“We're vegetarians so you're sending us products that we don't consume because we have a different kind of eating habit. It's not going to work for us,” Walton said.

Serenius said it wouldn't work for a lot of people. She said dietary restrictions from health issues and cultural influences would fill pantries with food people wouldn't eat.

“It's a broad stroke solution to a very dynamic and complex problem,” said Foreman.

A better idea is growing programs like Produce Perks, Foreman said.

“Produce Perks works to increase affordability while also simultaneously having an impact on the local economy, increasing the bottom line for local farmers,” Foreman said.

We would really like your thoughts on these proposed changes. Call the Feedback Friday hotline to voice your opinion. 513-852-4998.

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