Tuesday, September 07, 2021

It's a little -- was it really enough?

The Thrifty Food Program? Probably a lot of Americans feel that they practice that. But the one we're referring to is actually a government program. The USDA explains:  

The Thrifty Food Plan is one of four food plans USDA develops that estimate the cost of a healthy diet across various price points – the Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans. The Thrifty Food Plan is the lowest cost of the four. It represents the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost-effective diet prepared at home for a family of four, which is defined in law as an adult male and female, ages 20-50, and two children, ages 6-8 and 9-11.


The TFP is used as the basis for designing Food Stamp Program benefits. It is the cheapest food plan and is calculated monthly using data collected for the consumer price index (CPI). It is not the same as the food components of the CPI. The monthly cost of the TFP used for the Food Stamp Program represents a national average of expenditures (four-person household consisting of an adult couple and two school-age children) adjusted for other household sizes through the use of a formula reflecting economies of scale. For food stamp purposes, the TFP as priced each June sets maximum benefit levels for the fiscal year beginning the following October.

In the middle of last month, Congress passed an increase for the program. US House Rep David Scott, Chair of the House Ag Committee, stated, "The 2018 Farm Bill passed with broad bipartisan support, along with record support from the full House of Representatives, which is why it's great to see USDA implementing the Farm Bill requirement. This update to the Thrifty Food Plan ensures that SNAP benefits are based off an accurate science-based and up-to-date Thrifty Food Plan and will go a long way towards reducing hunger and food inscurity in this country. As always, I am grateful to see provisional with bipartisan support moving along in a productive way."

Senator Debbie Stabenow is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and she declared, "We can all agree that the world is much different today than it was in 1975 when the Thrifty Food Plan was last updated. Congress recognized this and that is why the 2018 Farm Bill required the USDA to modernize SNAP benefits levels. This long overdue update finally takes into account the time constraints, nutritional needs, and budgets of working families in America today. For the families struggling to find enough time to prepare and share meals or afford enough nutrition for their growing kids, or the seniors on fixed incomes now navigating complicated dietary health needs, this will be a welcome improvement."

And while we're glad for the increase, it's not really that much. As Stabenow's office noted, "the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day, for Fiscal Year 2022 starting October 1." Again, we're glad for any increase to those in need but $1.19 a month extra strikes us as a little cheap.




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