The Biden administration just gave food stamps the largest permanent increase in history.
Beginning in October, all 42 million Americans who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will receive a 25 percent benefits increase from pre-pandemic levels. Before the pandemic, the average monthly benefit totaled about $121 per person, which would rise by $36.24 to approximately $157 under the new rule.
The surge follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which was released today. The Thrifty Food Plan is one of four food plans that the USDA uses to calculate the average cost of a nutritious diet.
“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.
The review was based on data centered on four categories: dietary guidance, current food prices, what the average American eats, and nutrients found in common food items. According to the USDA, the revised Thrifty Food Plan includes more red and orange vegetables as well as fish.
Overall, the updated food plan aims to make healthy foods more accessible to Americans. A USDA study released this year found nearly 90 percent of SNAP participants faced barriers that prevented them from following a healthy diet. The most common of the barriers, the study notes, was the cost of healthy foods.
Food stamps get a major increase
Congress directed the review of the Thrifty Food Plan in the 2018 Farm Bill. President Biden also expressed his support for an increase in federal nutritional aid in an Executive Order he issued in January.
The aid will be available to the anti-hunger program’s 42 million participants indefinitely. The boost in benefits follows the temporary 15 percent increase the government ordered during the pandemic, which expires at the end of September.
SNAP offers nutritional assistance to people with a low income. It was first launched in 1939 as a means to assist people following the Great Depression.
According to the USDA, more than 35 million people experienced hunger in the U.S. in 2019. Its Household Food Insecurity in the U.S. report also found households with children were more likely to experience food insecurity.
This figure surged amid the coronavirus outbreak. Feeding America—a nonprofit organization that oversees a network of more than 200 food banks across the country—estimated an additional 17 million people were impacted by food insecurity during the pandemic.
“Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more,” Vilsack continued. “And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”