USDA Flicker

Sonny Perdue loved The Box. Whether the ill-fated “Harvest Box” or the Farmers to Families Box authorized under pandemic relief, Sonny pushed The Box as the USDA’s primary food assistance tool despite evidence that it was costlier and less effective than SNAP in getting food to those in need.

But’s that the point. Sonny loved that The Box wasn’t an “entitlement” like SNAP.

No, for Sonny, The Box was power. He — on behalf of The Dear Leader — decided who got contracts to prepare The Box and to whom The Box got sent. Not for Sonny some technical formula that calculated monthly benefits delivered anonymously through an EBT card.

No, Sonny wanted control. He wanted you to know that you got The Box because he said so.

The Box also was benevolence. The Dear Leader was giving you food! It even said so in the letters from Trump included in Farmers to Families boxes as the election neared. It wasn’t obvious if those getting The Box would votefor Trump, but it did not matter: The Dear Leader gave you food, and Sonny was his agent.

Not convinced? Think about the number of times Sonny — sometimes with the Dear Leader and the Immaculate Ivanka at his side — was there to hand The Box to the needy. That’s some serious Dear Leader stuff.

The Box also highlighted your shame and gratitude. Stand in line for your handout. Let it be seen that you were in dire straits. Be shamed about your condition. And be grateful for The Box.

The Box was never good food assistance policy — just as it wasn’t during the Great Depression when the idea of food stamps was first hatched. The stamps put additional purchasing power, to be used at the local market. No standing in line. No shame.

But no photo ops, either.

Yes, the Farmers to Families boxes plugged real gaps in SNAP and unemployment benefits coverage at the height of the pandemic’s devastation. But those gaps often were created by Sonny’s own efforts to make getting benefits harder.

They also were created by Trump policies that drove many otherwise eligible from seeking benefits. The expanded public charge rule and immigration crackdowns by ICE drove hundreds of thousands into the shadows, where only local social service agencies could reach them.

Desperate for help, the needy welcomed the Box. What choice did they have?

Sonny loved his Box. He can take it with him.

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Christopher Bosso is professor and Associate Director for Academic Affairs in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, Boston.

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Christopher Bosso

Christopher Bosso

Christopher Bosso is professor and Associate Director for Academic Affairs in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, Boston.

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