Woman and child grocery shopping
Source: Getty Images

SNAP Benefits to See Largest Increase Ever Starting on October 1

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Aug. 18 2021, Published 12:08 p.m. ET

Starting on Oct. 1, families receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits will see a 25 percent increase in the amount of assistance they receive.

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This week, the Biden administration approved the largest increase in SNAP benefits since the program started in 1975. The average SNAP benefit will increase by $36.24 per person per month or $1.19 per day.

The SNAP benefit increase came as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. President Joe Biden’s January executive order asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider expanding the federal nutrition assistance programs to address the growing hunger crisis in the country.

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snap benefits
Source: USDA

USDA reevaluates the Thrifty Food Plan

On Aug. 16, the USDA released its reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan used to calculate SNAP benefits. In its re-evaluation, the USDA looked at four key factors—current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items.

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The reevaluation found that the cost of a nutritious, practical, and cost-effective diet is 21 percent higher than the current Thrifty Food Plan. The USDA reports that evidence consistently shows that the benefit levels are too low to provide for a realistic and healthy diet even with households contributing their own funds toward groceries.

“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.”

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What is the SNAP benefit program?

The SNAP program is a federal assistance program that helps low-income and no-income people buy food for themselves and their families. Originally known as the Food Stamp Program, the program was renamed SNAP in 2008.

Currently, the SNAP program helps to feed more than 42 million Americans every month. Recipients can use the benefits to buy food items. Some restaurants in certain areas can also accept the benefits. The benefits can’t be used to buy alcohol, tobacco products, pet food, hygiene products, and other non-food items.

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thrifty food plan
Source: Getty Images

What role does the Thrifty Food Plan play in SNAP benefits?

The Thrifty Food Plan is a critical piece of calculating SNAP benefits. It represents the cost of groceries for a family of four. The plan was last updated in 2006. The 2018 Farm Bill directed the USDA to re-evaluate the plan by 2022 and then every five years after that.

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“To set SNAP families up for success, we need a Thrifty Food Plan that supports current dietary guidance on a budget,” said Stacy Dean, the 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.”

When does the SNAP benefit increase go into effect?

The increase in SNAP benefits is approved for the government’s fiscal year 2022, which starts on October 1, 2021.

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How much is the SNAP benefit increase?

On average, SNAP benefits will increase by about $36.24 per person per month. That is about 25 percent more than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the average benefit was about $121. Benefits increased by 15 percent during the pandemic and that increase expires at the end of September.

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