How Trump's proposed SNAP changes could affect Tennessee Valley - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

How Trump's proposed SNAP changes could affect Tennessee Valley Residents

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

President Trump's proposed budget would replace food stamps with a "food box" delivery program in 2019. It's a major change to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

Nearly a million Tennesseans benefited from the SNAP program last month, costing taxpayers more than $120 million. More than 98,000 of those recipients live in the Channel 3 viewing area. 

"It's punishing the people that need," said Rita Jay Waters, SNAP recipient. "It's taking from the table." 

Rita Jay Waters lives on a fixed income. She's diabetic and unable to work. With a little more than $100 worth of food stamps each month, she tries to make every dollar last. 

"Now I have been going different places like they tell me too and yes I am ashamed of going to places like that because I've never been in that position to do that, but when a person has to you don't have a choice," said Waters. 

Waters tells Channel 3, she stays away from sugars and sweets and buys mainly fresh fruits and vegetables.

"It's nourishment, that's what my kidney doctor tells me everyday you need to eat protein, you need to eat fruit," said waters. " Well how are you going to buy fruit, if you can't afford it." 

Under Trump's new proposal, more than 16 million households would have half of their benefits go toward food boxes. Officials say the remainder of benefits would still be provided on an EBT card.

The box would contain shelf table milk, juice, grains, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans canned meats and canned fruits and vegetables. 

USDA officials say all foods placed in the box would be grown by American farmers and producers, saving $129.2 billion over 10 years. 

"There's people out there that is abusing food stamps," said Waters. " Using when they're supposed to be using it on kids that needs it. They're babies I've seen in lines at grocery stores just crying and begging for food." 

Critics of the current SNAP program argue recipients can waste benefits on junk food or luxury items each month. A recent study by the USDA shows soft drinks were the number 1 purchase by snap households. 

Congress has considered placing limits on the types of foods that could be purchased. However, designating any foods as luxury or non-nutritional would be too costly. 

Waters agrees there needs to be a change, she just hopes all of the necessary nutritional foods are included for her dietary needs.  

"If President Trump can do it, I say go for it," said Waters. 

The change is part of President Trump's budget plan, which has to be approved by congress. 

Channel 3 spoke to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank about the new proposal. A spokesperson says the organization worries the waste could outweigh the benefit if anyone with dietary restrictions could not use standardized food boxes and that distributing the boxes could be very costly. About 70% of SNAP households are families with children.

SNAP Participation by County in Channel 3 viewing area:

                                          Individuals                             Households
Hamilton County:              49,687                                   25,852
Bradley County:                15,858                                    7,892
McMinn County:                9,025                                     4,491
Rhea County:                     6,884                                     3,396
Marion County:                  5,316                                     2,707
Sequatchie County:           3,085                                    1,552
Bledsoe County:                2,862                                     1,474
Polk County:                      2,838                                     1,396
Meigs County:                   2,566                                     1,298
 

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