By Travis Mounts
A proposal by the Trump administration to replace the food stamp program with a “food box” delivery system has one local grocery store concerned about the impact on business.
And that concern caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who on Friday visited Raider Pride Grocery in Argonia and owners Brent and Bonita Bradley.
In mid-February, the Office of Management and Budget told reporters that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking to make significant changes to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as food stamps. The plan, as it was presented, would deliver half of its benefits via a food box delivery program. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, referenced Blue Apron, a for-profit company that sells and delivers weekly meal service kits.
Currently, Americans using SNAP receive a payment card similar to a debit card for food purchases. The USDA, which administers the program, already has rules about what cannot be purchased, such as alcohol, pet food and household items.
The Bradleys said they opened their stores in Argonia and Norwich to help their communities, not because they saw an opportunity to get rich.
This story first appeared in the print edition of the Conway Springs Star & Argonia Argosy. To see stories like this sooner and to get all your community news, subscribe to the print edition. Call 316-540-0500 today to start home delivery next week.
Customers using SNAP are a small, but significant part of Raider Pride Grocery’s business. It would hurt to lose that business.
“It would be significant enough that it would easily cost us our business,” Brent said. “We’re not the only ones out there that is going to hurt.”
He said while there always will be a certain number of people who abuse the system, his store is a lifeline for others. Brent said when he and Bonita opened their first store in Norwich, it was for two groups of people.
One was elderly residents who otherwise considered moving away to be closer to a grocery store. Many of them could no longer drive long distances. The other group was teachers, because Norwich schools were having a hard time recruiting teachers.
As for waste with the current system, “It’s easily fixed,” Brent said. He suggested putting names of authorized users on EBT cards, and requiring a secondary ID to use it. Additional restrictions on what can be purchased also could be an effective change, he said.
Bonita said she didn’t like the idea of the government telling people what they could or could not have.
“(It sounds like) kind of a communistic system,” she said.
Mulvaney said the change would save the government money by allowing it to buy food at wholesale prices, rather than at retail prices.
Brent said he worried about what would happen once the program was established.
“There will be a government contract, and then Amazon or Walmart will buy them,” he said. He also asked how the new system would impact people with dietary restrictions, whether for health reasons, religious regions or other personal choices, such as being a vegetarian or vegan.
The senator drove over to Argonia after a couple of other stops to the west. He made a personal visit after hearing from Brent.
“They wanted to make sure I understood how damaging that could be to a grocery store in a small town,” Moran said. “I wanted to see what I can do for them.”
In addition to visiting with the Bradleys, Moran talked with a number of customers who popped into the store to discover one of their U.S. senators inside, even if one or two of them did not recognize him immediately. At least a couple of visitors enjoyed one-on-one time with Moran.
“Thank you for shopping in this grocery store,” he told one customer.
Moran noted how important grocery stores are to small towns, and that it takes the entire community to grow and thrive.
“They have a pride in their community and a desire to support this place,” Moran said.
“If we’re going to have success, we’re going to do it together.”
Jenny Osner, co-owner of Hired Man’s Grocery & Grill in Conway Springs, said she didn’t know enough about the proposed changes to be able to comment at this time.