August 11, 2022
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotments will increase in fiscal year (FY) 2023, but fall short of the amounts needed for adequate diets, according to a Food Research & Action Center analysis. The cost–of–living adjustments, announced by U.S. Department of Agriculture in August 2022, reflect the pricing of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) market basket in June 2022. Given the impact of inflation in recent months, the maximum benefit for four-person SNAP households with the lowest incomes will increase from $835 to $939, but still will be $75 below the level calibrated to the more realistic Low-Cost Food Plan.
The TFP is the most meager of the federal government’s food plans. When the government is estimating food costs for purposes other than SNAP, it uses one of the other food plans, used for dealing with bankruptcies, military compensation, alimony, and child support.  Independent researchers also have used the Low-Cost Food Plan as a relevant benchmark. In assessing what wages would support a basic standard of living in cities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s interactive tool assumes the price of the Low-Cost Food Plan for the food portion of expenditures.
The reevaluation of the TFP that the Biden Administration implemented in 2021, pursuant to direction from Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, reduced the food affordability gap. Even after the 2021 TFP adjustment, however, SNAP maximum benefit levels remained lower than the cost of moderately priced meals in many U.S. counties, according to Urban Institute research.
Policy Change Needed
A growing number of members of Congress and other stakeholders agree that the Low-Cost Food Plan is the more appropriate basis for determining SNAP benefits.3 Currently, 109 House members and 5 senators have cosponsored the bill (H.R. 4077/S. 2192) that Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced to replace the TFP with the Low-Cost Food Plan as the basis for calculating SNAP benefits.
H.R. 4077/S. 2192 also would:
- improve SNAP benefit adequacy and equity by removing the arbitrary cap on the shelter deduction and improving the standard excess medical deduction: These changes would ease the struggles that too many families with children face in paying for both food and housing, and that too many persons who are elderly or have disabilities face in paying for both food and medicine.
- provide Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands with pathways to operate SNAP. The block grants that they have for residents now are less able to respond to changes in need than regular SNAP is, whether those changes are caused by recessions or natural disasters or pandemics.
Act Now to Avert Hunger Cliff
Currently, most SNAP households are at the maximum benefit amount or are receiving a supplement above that pursuant to federally funded SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs) that states can leverage during COVID-19. When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration ends, however, SNAP EAs will end. Some persons who normally qualify for the minimum benefit will fall from $281 a month to $23, the new minimum monthly benefit level for FY 2023.
There is strong public support for continuing SNAP expansions beyond COVID-19.
Join FRAC in urging more members of Congress to sponsor and vote for H.R. 4077/S. 2192 to improve SNAP benefit adequacy and equitable access on a permanent basis.
 Heather Hartline-Grafton and Ellen Vollinger, “Thrifty Food Plan 101,” FRAC Chat, Food Research & Action Center, June 16, 2021, https://frac.org/blog/thrifty-food-plan-101-part-1 and https://frac.org/blog/thrifty-food-plan-101-part-2
 See Stephanie Moser,“Living Wage Calculator-User’s Guide/Technical Notes 2021-2022 Update,” MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, May 10, 2022, p. 3, https://livingwage.mit.edu/resources/Living-Wage-Users-Guide-Technical-Documentation-2022-05-10.pdf (updating original author Carey Anne Nadeau)
 See, e.g., Andrew Cheyne and Ellen Vollinger, “Calls for Action to Avert Hunger Cliff Mount,” FRAC Chat, Food Research & Action Center, June 17, 2022, https://frac.org/blog/calls-for-action-to-avert-snap-hunger-cliff-mount and Rebecca Vallas et al., “Economic Justice is Disability Justice,” The Century Foundation, April 21,2022, https://tcf.org/content/report/economic-justice-disability-justice/