GBFB’s Statement on the Historic Reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan and Increase to SNAP Benefits
August 19, 2021 – The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on their recent announcement regarding their reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is the basis for how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are calculated. This update to the Thrifty Food Plan is the first of its kind in 45 years since its inception in 1975, marking a historic day for SNAP, our nation’s first line of defense against hunger and an integral part of GBFB’s work to feed Eastern Massachusetts.
Beginning October 1, SNAP recipients will see an average benefit increase of $36 per person per month, excluding pandemic-related funding. The update to the Thrifty Food Plan stems from a congressional directive in the 2018 Farm Bill and was reinforced through an executive order from President Biden in January.
As we know from our recently published Gaps in Food Access report, only 1 out of 2 adults experiencing food insecurity in Massachusetts are enrolled in SNAP, and those enrolled in SNAP identified the benefit amount as not being adequate. For every meal the Massachusetts food bank system provides, SNAP provides 5, which underscores the importance of SNAP access and benefit adequacy in providing for more of our food insecure neighbors in need.
USDA recently held listening sessions on the Thrifty Food Plan to solicit input from stakeholders across the country on how to modernize benefits to align them with the current cost of a healthy diet. GBFB provided feedback to USDA, including a quote from one of our clients, which was highlighted by USDA in their outreach materials regarding Thrifty Food Plan comments:
I try to cut costs as much as possible to make my SNAP benefits last, and even doing that I run out at least a week early. I use coupons, watch for sale and clearance items, anything I can to save money…
While GBFB applauds USDA for this significant and long overdue update to the Thrifty Food Plan, we recognize that there is more work to do in strengthening SNAP and our federal nutrition programs. As pandemic-related boosts expire in the coming months, such as the 15 percent boost to SNAP and the SNAP emergency allotments, families will experience a benefits cliff, even with the updates to the Thrifty Food Plan. We look forward to continuing our advocacy to ensure benefit adequacy and access for families to afford healthy food, as this will lead to less reliance there will be on the emergency food system. Together, we can end hunger here.