WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday announced a 21% increase in benefits under the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, marking the first permanent increase to the benefits since the program was introduced in 1975. More than 42 million Americans, or 1 in 8, rely on SNAP each month.
The average SNAP benefit, excluding additional funds provided as part of pandemic relief, will rise by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day, for fiscal year 2022 beginning Oct. 1, 2021, USDA said. Average monthly benefits per person before the pandemic stood at $121 per person.
SNAP benefits are given on a sliding scale and depend on the number of persons in a household. The new maximum will rise to $835 a month for a four-person household who live in 48 states and Washington, D.C. Maximum allotments for a family of four will increase to a range of $1,074 to $1,667 in Alaska, to $1,573 in Hawaii, to $1,231 in Guam, and to $1,074 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
USDA said the increase is a result of a data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to calculate SNAP benefits.
“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.”
USDA said its re-evaluation was driven by 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, 2020-25.
What’s more, the plan was calculated using updated purchasing data—collected from stores versus self-reported by household—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 USDA study published in June 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.
“Even maxed out we can’t afford to buy much that isn’t canned or boxed so fresh food is less frequent than we need or is healthy. …It is hard to choose between having enough to eat and trying to get healthier,” Alina S., a current SNAP participant, told USDA in the agency’s listening sessions on SNAP benefits.
Among the other challenges cited, 30% said time to prepare meals from scratch, 19% said transportation to the grocery store and 18% cited distance to the grocery store.
Access to food, particularly fresh food, is one challenge that convenience stores and corner stores can help to alleviate for SNAP recipients, especially for urban and rural dwellers.
Out of the more than 150,000 convenience stores in the United States, more than 111,000 participate in SNAP—representing about 45% of all retail outlets authorized to accept SNAP benefits. Convenience stores are often the only establishments easily accessible by walking or public transportation, or the only food retail locations open for business with extended or 24-hour service. For more information on NACS and the convenience industry’s support of SNAP, click here.