Hanover Co-Op releases statement opposing SNAP cuts

by Harrison Aronoff | 3/30/18 2:30am

The board of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society, which oversees grocery stores in Hanover, Lebanon and White River Junction, issued a statement on March 13 in opposition to the White House’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The statement opposed the proposal to cut allowances of SNAP recipients in half and provide the remaining half through pre-packaged, predetermined foods. Currently, SNAP gives around 46 million low-income Americans an average stipend of $126 per month to spend on food. The proposal would reduce 30 percent of the food stamp program’s budget if enacted. To compensate for these cuts, those SNAP recipients who receive more than $90 per month would get half of their benefits in the form of a food package.

Co-op president William Craig, who is also a lecturer in the English department at the College, said that people, regardless of socioeconomic status, have a fundamental right to access healthy foods, which is threatened by the proposal.

“Through the [newly proposed] SNAP program, you’re essentially getting food bought as government surplus,” Craig said. “You have no choice about nutrition, ingredients, healthy choices.”

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said she is concerned that the box that would be delivered to SNAP recipients, called “America’s Harvest Box,” would not be stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, but instead with outsourced and mass-produced foods, such as pasta, canned goods and cereal.

In addition to direct funding cuts for SNAP beneficiaries, the statement emphasized that cuts would hurt not only low-income individuals and families, who rely on the program for nutrition assistance, but also local economies.

“There’s going to be an overall effect on food production to food retail to jobs, and of course to the health and well-being of the people who are trying to make do with less under these [potential] changes,” Craig said.

Griffin also agreed with the board’s statement that the policy could impact the local economy because the Co-op and local producers would potentially lose sales if SNAP recipients were to receive half of their benefits through harvest boxes instead of stipends, which are spent at local grocery stores and farm stands.

Griffin added that while many people assume that residents of the Upper Valley are affluent, many would be hurt by a policy like the one put forth in this proposal. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, seven percent of New Hampshire residents, or 92,000 people, received SNAP benefits in 2017.

In the most recent spending bill approved by Congress, SNAP funding did not change. Co-op director of communications Alan Reetz said that the Co-op and its customers should not worry about the SNAP proposal’s enactment because he believes that it, along with most of the president’s budget proposals, will not be approved by Congress. He said the national outcry over the SNAP proposal sends a clear message to Congress and the White House that the grocery industry, SNAP recipients, as well as many others disapprove of the proposal.