Berks

SNAP reform aims to minimize fraud; opponents have doubts

READING, Pa. - President Trump's proposed budget calls for big changes to the program that provides food stamps to more than 42 million people.

Supporters said the changes would save billions of dollars; opponents said they'll make things harder for those in need, especially in Reading, which is one of America's poorest cities.

In one page, the president's budget outlines the goals of the SNAP reform plan. Key points center on providing nutritional food and preventing program abuse.

Hundreds of people step through the doors at the Hope Lutheran Church's food pantry in Reading every month.

"If they are down on their luck, it doesn't matter what their situation, if they are down on their luck, they can come here and get some food," said Freda Molina.

The pantry is open to low-income families. Many visitors combine the food they get there with assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, to get by.

Those who turn to the pantry for help would feel the impact of President Trump's budget plan to reform SNAP, if it's approved.

The proposal calls for reducing spending on the program by $213 billion over the next decade, and offering a mix of food stamps and packages of American-grown foods to households.

The 'USDA America's harvest box' would include pre-packaged items like milk, grains, meat, fruits and vegetables.

Larry Berringer, the director of the Berks Community Action Program, said he can somewhat get behind the garvest box, but he said there are too many issues that need to be addressed first.

"If we're going to correct a system where we have to recoup money because of waste, fraud, and abuse, you don't do it with someone who gets $110 in food stamps," he said.

The budget said the changes would improve nutritional value and reduce fraud. It also said, "The budget would also expand on previous reforms aimed at strengthening the expectation for work among able-bodied adults and preserving the benefits for those most in need."

As for the distribution of the so-called harvest box, the plan calls for local government to determine the contents and how to ship them.


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