Story at a glance
- The USDA will increase its budget allocation for SNAP, increasing benefits by an average of $36.24 per person each month.
- New price calculations and food guidance helped make the decision to increase funding.
- The program received additional funding during the pandemic.
For the first time in 45 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its food stamps program to increase funding for its longstanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On Monday, officials at the USDA announced the re-evaluated Thrifty Food Plan, an index that calculates the costs of nutrient-dense healthy foods and informs changes to SNAP benefits. The newer version of the plan takes into account current food prices and the official 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Beginning on Oct. 1, SNAP benefits will increase by an average of $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day.
The increased funding is in addition to emergency funds authorized for the program during the pandemic and comes amid reports of inflation as the U.S. recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent Consumer Price Index data showed food prices growing on 5.4 percent in July — although this falls within the range of normal economic fluctuations.
“A modernized Thrifty Food Plan is more than a commitment to good nutrition – it’s an investment in our nation’s health, economy, and security,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”
More than 42 million Americans are estimated to utilize SNAP food stamps, but the program has been criticized for not offering enough aid to buy healthy whole foods. One recent figure suggests that the cost of a nutritious but cost-sensitive diet is 21 percent higher than what the Thrifty Food Program previously advised.
“To set SNAP families up for success, we need a Thrifty Food Plan that supports current dietary guidance on a budget,” Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services said in the press release. “Too many of our fellow Americans struggle to afford healthy meals. The revised plan is one step toward getting them the support they need to feed their families.”