PNS Daily Newscast - February 22, 2018 

President Trump holds a listening session at the White House as the demand for action to curb gun violence spreads across the nation; also on today's rundown; an Arizona ballot initiative would require 50 percent renewable energy by the year 2030; and a new report find local democracy is being "run-over" by Lyft and Uber.

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Proposed Budget Calls for Deep Cuts to Food Program

President Donald Trump has proposed substituting packages of commodity foods for about half of SNAP benefits. (USDA/Flickr)
President Donald Trump has proposed substituting packages of commodity foods for about half of SNAP benefits. (USDA/Flickr)
February 14, 2018

NEW YORK – The budget proposed by President Donald Trump on Monday would slash funding for food assistance for low-income Americans.

Under the Trump budget proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would substitute packages of "shelf-stable" foods, such as pasta, cereal and canned goods, for about half of the value of the SNAP benefits.

Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg said that, combined with other program changes, would reduce the overall SNAP budget by $213 billion over ten years – $20 billion more than Trump proposed cutting it last year.

"At the same time, it would create a massive new government bureaucracy to create what the Trump administration has said is some sort of 'Blue Apron' program for low-income people," noted Berg.

The administration has said supplying packages of government-selected foods would reduce costs through bulk purchasing.

The recent bipartisan budget agreement makes passage of the SNAP cuts unlikely. Still, Berg is concerned that the proposal could serve as an opening for Congress to reduce funding for the food program by a smaller amount.

"My worry is Congress will say, 'Well, we're not going along with the worst of the Trump cuts, but we are still going to do some cuts,' which should be absolutely unacceptable given that these programs [have] already been cut twice in a massive level over the last decade," he said.

He pointed out that 41-million Americans, including 2-million New Yorkers, struggle against hunger every day. In two weeks, he said, Hunger Free America will travel to Washington, D.C., with low-income people and other hunger-fighting advocacy groups to ask Congress to spare SNAP from any further budget cuts.

"These programs need to be increased," Berg stated. "We need to end hunger in America – not create a major hunger crisis to pay for tax cuts for the mega-rich."

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY