On October 1, the largest permanent benefits increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's 60-year history took effect, marking "a significant turning point" in efforts to eliminate hunger in the U.S., writes Jennie Day-Burget of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The program, which is disproportionately used by rural Americans, has been "extremely effective at increasing food security, improving children’s health and academic performance, supporting economic growth, and lifting people out of poverty," especially during the pandemic, she writes.
Day-Burget sat down with Jamie Bussel, who oversee's RWJF's childhood nutrition work, to discuss the significance of the program increase and how they and other organizations can best leverage the program to maximize its potential to help.
The permanent increase was critical, Bussel explained, because the average SNAP recipient in more than 96% of U.S. counties couldn't afford a modest meal with their benefit. Even after the increase, more than 40% can't afford a meal, but it's still dramatic progress.
The reality of food costs was key to the program's benefit update, Bussel said. USDA calculates benefit payouts using the Thrifty Food Plan, which takes into account metrics such as food costs, dietary guidelines and nutritional content of various foods. But the formula makes a lot of assumptions that haven't been changed since 1975. Updating the formula means the average SNAP benefit is going up by about 25% compared to pre-pandemic averages. Read more here.