Food stamps proposal would partially replace EBT credit with boxes of food

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - If you receive money from food stamps, a proposal from the government would switch part of that benefit from dollars to non-perishable food.

In a budget document released Monday, the US Department of Agriculture describes a plan called America's Harvest Box. Households receiving at least $90 in combined SNAP/EBT benefits would instead get about half of that benefit in the form of a food box.

The food box would contain American-produced "staple, shelf-stable foods," including shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables.

The other half of the SNAP benefits would still be provided via the EBT card.

"USDA America's Harvest Box is a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families -- and all of it is homegrown by American farmers and producers," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in the proposal.

The budget proposal claims $129.2 billion would be saved over the next 10 years by giving people food boxes instead of all their benefits in EBT money.

Even if the federal government saves money, local food stores in the Wilmington area worry their bottom line would suffer.

"Everybody was upset that this opportunity would probably be taken away from us," said Bobby Dorsch, manager at Piggly Wiggly in Leland.

Dorsch said about one-third of their store's income is from SNAP/EBT purchases.

"It would impact our store in particular…sales-wise, especially on those food stamp days," said Dorsch.

Smaller convenience stores in the Wilmington area, who wished to remain anonymous, said the change would reduce their sales, but to a lesser degree than food stores.

The New Hanover County Department of Social Services said it is aware of the proposal and is looking to the state for guidance about what this change could mean for people locally.

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