WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has approved a significant and permanent increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to needy families.
Starting in October, average benefits for food stamps will rise more than 25% above pre-pandemic levels. It's the largest single increase in the program’s history.
The increased assistance will be available indefinitely to all 42 million beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The increase coincides with the end of a 15% boost in SNAP benefits that was ordered as a pandemic protection measure.
In practical terms, the average monthly per-person benefits will rise from $121 to $157.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture outlined its changes in its re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to calculate SNAP benefits.
The USDA conducted a data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan and 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.
“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.”
In its re-evaluation, the 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.
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 plan also includes a modest increase in calories to reflect the latest data and support an active lifestyle.
The USDA says its reevaluation concluded that the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost-effective diet is 21% higher than the current plan. As a result, the average SNAP benefit – excluding additional funds provided as part of pandemic relief – will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day, for the Fiscal Year 2022 beginning on Oct. 1.