The Biden administration is revising food stamps by introducing a permanent increase in grocery services, giving a 27% boost, marking the biggest increase ever for the program. The boost comes as a temporary increase of 15%next month.
The boost will take effect Oct. 1 for the roughly 42 million people currently receiving food stamps, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a conference call about changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the official name for food stamps.
Per person, benefits will on average add around $ 36 per person. Month to the pre-pandemic level of around $ 121 per month. Person every month, the agency said. Increasing the benefits will increase the annual cost of the program by about $ 19 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.
The increase will help 1 in 8 Americans who are now on food stamps can afford a healthier diet given higher food prices, evolving nutritional guidelines over the years and changes in how Americans cook, Vilsack said. Congress in 2018 instructed the USDA to reconsider the Thrifty Food Plan, a set of guidelines that determine the cost of a nutritious diet for cost-conscious families. The USDA’s reassessment found the benefits are too low, the agency said Monday.
The new calculation “translates into an increase of about 27% in the SNAP benefit,” Vilsack said. “We need to modernize these assumptions based on what’s happening in kitchens and homes across America.”
About 80% of people on food labels are working adults with children, the disabled or senior citizens living on small fixed incomes, Vilsack added. Providing a greater food benefit will help reduce poverty, provide healthier food choices and lead to better health outcomes for children, he said.
“This program was incredibly important to the Americans”Said Vilsack. “The pandemic shocked people from thinking, ‘I would never get involved in the SNAP program’.”
Boost to benefits only comes as one. Due to the rising hunger rates caused by the pandemic, the federal government stepped in last year and approved a 15% boost to SNAP, but this increase expires on September 30th.
Sparse meal plan: What is it?
The Thrifty Food Plan was developed in the 1960s to set a budget for a “nutritionally appropriate diet for short-term or emergency use,” according to the USDA.
Since then, the plan has been adjusted for inflation, but not for other factors, such as new research into nutrition, variations in local food costs or specialized diets for people with specific health problems, according to food experts. Under the plan, an adult male should be able to afford a nutritious diet of $ 45.60 a week, even though that diet would include nearly two pounds of beans and about a pound of beef a week.
The sparse meal plan also assumes that people have about two hours a day to spend on cooking. Real households on SNAP benefits spend on average less than an hour a day preparing meals, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank.
“You can not convince me that people spend an hour and a half every day cooking from scratch,” Vilsack said.
Studies of families’ needs on food labels showed that many of them “had a hard time making the healthy choices” after the benefits were low, he added.
Registration for food stamps has swelled during the pandemic. In April, more than 42 million people were enrolled in SNAP, an increase of 15% from February 2020, just before the pandemic.