Largest increase in SNAP history recognizes higher grocery costs, program’s potential to boost economy

Beginning in October, SNAP beneficiaries will receive on average $36.24 more per person per month – representing a near 30 percentage point increase over average pre-pandemic levels of $121 per person. This increase excludes additional funds provided as part of the pandemic relief.

The increase is based on a reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which tracks the cost of groceries for a family of four to consume a healthy, cost-conscious diet at home. The TFP was last updated in 2006, since which USDA notes dietary guidance, food prices and what Americans eat has changed dramatically.

For example, USDA notes, “the revised plan includes more fish and red and orange vegetables to align with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025,”​ and it was calculated using updated purchasing data from stores to better reflect the actual cost of groceries.

The review and ultimate increase come at the behest of Congress, which mandated in the 2018 Farm Bill that USDA reevaluate the TFP by 2022 and every following five years  based on “current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns and dietary guidance.”

An Executive Ordered ​signed by President Joe Biden in January reinforced this directive and allowed states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for beneficiaries who previously did not qualify under coronavirus relief bills for additional benefits. Those bills increased the number of people who qualified for maximum benefits, but did not raise levels for the 40% of recipients who already received benefits.

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