USDA Plans to Increase SNAP Benefits by 25%

Largest boost in the history of the program
Gina Acosta
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USDA Plans to Increase SNAP Benefits by 25%
Beginning in October, average benefits for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will rise more than 25%.

The Biden administration has approved a permanent increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to America's needy families.

Beginning in October, average benefits for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will rise more than 25%. The increased assistance will be available to all 42 million SNAP beneficiaries. The average monthly per-person benefits will rise from $121 to $157.

The increase would raise the $79 billion annual program’s costs by about $20 billion versus pre-pandemic levels.

The USDA said in 2019 that about 11% of the U.S. population was covered by the program.

A temporary 15% increase in benefits as part of pandemic relief is set to expire on Sept. 30. The $3.5 billion boost approved earlier this year provides about $27 more per person, per month, or over $100 more a month for a household of four, in additional food stamp benefits.

As directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill – and with the expressed support of President Biden’s Jan. 22 Executive Order – USDA says it conducted a data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan. The resulting cost adjustment is the first time the purchasing power of the plan has changed since it was first introduced in 1975, reflecting shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years.

Food Industry Association Chief Public Policy Officer and Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Jennifer Hatcher commented on the Thrifty Food Plan.

“The grocery industry is proud to partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in perhaps the most successful public-private partnership of the last 50 years - distributing food assistance benefits in the most efficient, affordable and safest ways to every community across the country," Hatcher said. “The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed consumer grocery shopping habits. As private partners with the government ensuring efficient redemption of SNAP benefits in every community across the country, retailers look forward to continuing to maintain and build upon the successes of the SNAP program.”

In its re-evaluation, USDA says it was driven by the latest available data on the four key factors identified in the 2018 Farm Bill: current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items. For example, the revised plan includes more fish and red and orange vegetables to align with recommendation in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Additionally, the plan was calculated using updated purchasing data – collected from stores versus self-reported by households – to reflect the current price of foods in today’s marketplace. The revised Thrifty Food Plan also includes a modest increase in calories to reflect the latest data and support an active lifestyle.

“To set SNAP families up for success, we need a Thrifty Food Plan that supports current dietary guidance on a budget,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. “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.”