The federal government approved the largest increase to food assistance benefits in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The initiative will retool the program known as food stamps to provide assistance to the country’s poorest families.
The revisions announced Monday will raise the average benefits for recipients of the assistance by more than 25% from pre-pandemic level. These changes will come into effect in October and 42 million people enrolled in it will receive the additional aid.
Under the new rules, the average monthly benefit of $121 a person before the pandemic will rise from $121 to $157.
“Plain and simple, this is totally a game-changing moment,” said Jamie Bussel a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy focused on health. “The changes have enormous potential to reduce, and potentially eliminate, child hunger and poverty in this country. This will reflect much more accurately what food actually costs in communities.”
According to the Washington Post, the increase is based on an update to the algorithm that governs the Thrifty Food Plan, which tracks the cost of 58 different categories of groceries needed to provide a budget-conscious diet for a family of four.
As reported by nbcnews. Com, Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that the collective interest aims to provide aid to those in need. “It’s in our collective best interest to make sure that we’re helping folks through difficult times.”
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Families have different consumption patterns than when the food assistance program was last updated, Vilsack said, necessitating the changes.
A program that reduces poverty
“We know this is a program that reduces poverty, we know this is a program that improves health outcomes for kids, we know based on the data that it also results in better educational achievement because kids are fed,” said Vilsack.
These shifts represent a dramatic recalibration of the government’s strategy in preventing hunger. “When you look at the USDA data, the SNAP budget went from $60 billion to $90 billion. A third of that 50 percent growth was because 6 million more people became eligible, but two-thirds was Congress increasing the number of people who received the maximum benefit,” said Jerold Mande, an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.