WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamp” benefits. It concluded that the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost-effective diet is 21% higher than the current Thrifty Food Plan, and 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 fiscal-year 2022 beginning on Oct. 1, 2021.
- Click here for changes in benefits by state.
As directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, and with the expressed support of President Biden’s January 22 Executive Order, the USDA conducted a 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 notable shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years, the agency said.
In its re-evaluation, USDA used 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 recommendations 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.
“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.”
SNAP helps to feed more than 42 million Americans (one in eight) each month.
The 2021 Thrifty Food Plan puts healthy food in reach for SNAP families. Recent evidence consistently shows that benefit levels are too low to provide for a realistic, healthy diet, even with households contributing their own funds toward groceries. A USDA study published earlier this summer found that nearly nine out of 10 SNAP participants reported facing barriers to achieving a healthy diet, with the most common barrier being the cost of healthy foods.