Proposed SNAP Food Boxes Could Create Challenges for Families With Food Allergies


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program funded by the federal government. It helps states provide food to low-income families. It is commonly known as food stamps. Currently, states give participants an EBT card preloaded with a set amount of money. They can use it like a debit card to buy necessary items from stores that accept the cards.

As part of a budget plan for 2019, the White House is proposing cutting the value of these cards in half. They want to replace the other half with what it calls “America’s Harvest Box.” This box would have “100 percent U.S. grown and produced food,” made up of staple food items. Some of the suggested staple items are:

  • Shelf-stable milk
  • Juice
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans
  • Canned meats
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables

But what about people with food allergies who cannot eat peanut butter, milk or other allergens that might be in the boxes?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages SNAP. Because it is funded by the government, it must make accommodations for people with disabilities like food allergies. SNAP is like the federal National School Lunch Program. It has exact rules for accommodating food allergies. Under that program, a child with food allergies cannot be served foods containing their allergens. Also, lunch providers must check food labels for allergens of products served to children with food allergies. The allergen-free meal has to be the nutritional equal of the regularly served meal. A child with an allergy must submit a form with a doctor’s diagnosis of the allergy to get the special meals. There is a distinct process to complain to the USDA if a person feels they are not being accommodated.

The details of the Harvest Box plan still have to be worked out. Most likely, the rules for the new Harvest Box program will be like the National School Lunch Program.

USDA FNS Administrator Brandon Lipps says states will be able to be flexible with how they carry out the program.1 This implies that the exact products in the Harvest Box will not be strictly controlled, like the items in the USDA’s Women Infants and Children program.

But, the federal government will create unique rules for the program. States will be responsible for carrying out those rules. Whatever form those rules take, they will have to accommodate those with food allergies who make a specific request.

The USDA is asking for comments from the public about the SNAP program and changes to its work requirements.

Note: Even though the link above refers to adults without dependents and does not mention the Harvest Box, this is the correct link to send comments to the USDA about this program. 

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue is asking for feedback about the proposed Harvest Box plan1. He encourages people to use the public comment request to send their thoughts about all proposed changes to the SNAP program. People can also mail their thoughts and concerns directly to the USDA at:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250

Information Hotline: 202-720-2791

1. Secretary Perdue: Harvest Boxes Are New and Innovative. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from

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Even though the link in the blog post refers to adults without dependents and does not mention the Harvest Box, this is the correct link to send comments to the USDA about this program. Click the green "Submit a formal comment" button at the top of the page to let USDA Secretary Perdue know your thoughts on the proposed Harvest Box.

Kids With Food Allergies
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