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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP and the Thrifty Food Plan

SNAP maximum allotments (benefit amounts) are updated each year based on the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan in June and take effect on Oct. 1. The Thrifty Food Plan is the cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy, budget-conscious diet for a family of four.

thrifty food plan graphic

 

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Thrifty Food Plan?

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.

For more information on food plans, visit USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food (monthly reports).

How is the Thrifty Food Plan determined?

USDA calculates the Thrifty Food Plan using a mathematical model, or equation, based on the cost of food, the nutrients in food, nutrition guidance and what Americans eat.

What foods make up the Thrifty Food Plan?

The Thrifty Food Plan is made up of specific amounts of various food categories – such as dark green vegetables, whole fruit and poultry – that together comprise a practical, cost-effective diet that meets dietary guidance.

How often is the Thrifty Food Plan re-evaluated?

The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to re-evaluate the Thrifty Food Plan by 2022 and every five years thereafter. Prior to this requirement, the Thrifty Food Plan was introduced in 1975 and updated in 1983, 1999 and 2006.

How does the Thrifty Food Plan impact SNAP benefits?

The Thrifty Food Plan is used to determine SNAP benefit amounts, which vary by household size. By law, the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan in June sets the maximum SNAP benefit amount for a household of four people for the following fiscal year (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30).

USDA determines the maximum benefit amounts for other household sizes using a formula that adjusts for the fact that it costs more per person to feed a smaller household than a larger one. Current maximum household benefit amounts and information on how an individual SNAP household’s benefits are calculated based on the maximum benefit amount can be found on the SNAP Eligibility webpage.

How and when did SNAP benefits change?
Starting in October 2021, almost all SNAP households saw a modest increase in their SNAP benefits—generally between $12 to $16 per person per month. The exact amount for individual households differed. States automatically made these changes for all SNAP households. Some households with children may have also seen P-EBT (“Pandemic-EBT”) benefits on their EBT cards.
Why did SNAP benefits go up just a little?
Starting in October 2021, almost all SNAP households saw a modest increase in their SNAP benefits because of two changes that happened at the same time:
  1. SNAP benefit amounts are based on the “Thrifty Food Plan (TFP).” USDA  re-evaluated the TFP based on current data to reflect the cost of a healthy diet. This increased the purchasing power of regular SNAP benefits for the first time since 1975. Congress directed USDA to update the TFP. As a result, starting in October 2021, maximum SNAP benefit amounts (excluding pandemic-related increases) increased  21 percent higher than they would have if USDA had not re-evaluated the TFP.
  2. However, at the same time, the pandemic-related 15 percent increase to SNAP benefits that was in place since Jan. 2021 ended.

Another pandemic law increased households’ SNAP benefits to the maximum amount for their household size. This pandemic-related boost is called an “Emergency Allotment.” Households in most states are still getting Emergency Allotments as a supplement on top of their regular benefit amount every month. Some states had already ended Emergency Allotments for households. When Emergency Allotments end, benefits will drop by at least $95 per month per household and more for some.

Is that true that SNAP benefits increased by 25 percent or more ?
Not exactly. The change to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which is used to set SNAP benefits, increased the average regular SNAP benefit amount (not counting pandemic-related increases like the 15 percent increase or Emergency Allotments) by about 27 percent compared to what it would have been. But, because the 15 percent pandemic increase ended at the same time the TFP changed, SNAP participants did not see a 27 percent increase in their benefits in October 2021. Nearly all households saw a modest increase in their October 2021 SNAP benefits, generally between $12 and $16 per person per month.
How much did SNAP benefits increase?
The table below shows the amount SNAP benefits increased starting in October 2021 in states that were still providing temporary Emergency Allotments in September and October 2021.

A few states had already ended Emergency Allotments. In households in those states, SNAP benefit changes were generally close to the amounts shown in the table but may have differed slightly because of other annual adjustments that took effect at the same time.

Monthly SNAP Benefit Increase
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia

Household Size Amount of SNAP Increase, starting October 2021
1 $16
2 $29
3 $42
4 $53
5 $63
6 $76
7 $84
8 $96

*In states that ended Emergency Allotments, the benefit changes that households saw in October 2021 were generally similar to the amounts shown above but may have been slightly different because of other annual adjustments that also took effect in October 2021. However, in these states, SNAP households receiving the minimum benefit of $16 per month in September 2021 only saw their benefits increase $4 per month in October 2021.

When did benefits change?
Households in most states saw a modest increase in their monthly benefit in October 2021. 
Are these changes permanent?
Yes, the increase to the non-pandemic SNAP benefit amounts is permanent. In general, a SNAP benefit amount may change based on a household’s circumstances. Additionally, household benefit allotment amounts may change again in 2022 if Emergency Allotments end in your state.
Related Resources
03/09/2022