By Nancy Tannler
A permanent increase to the food stamp program was issued by the Biden administration to help low income households buy more groceries.
The new plan will ensure that beginning this month, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will receive a 25 percent increase. Benefits for the program are determined on a sliding scale.
The additional aid has come about due to a report of the Thrifty Food Plan 2021 (available at fns.usda.gov/cnpp/usda-food-plans-cost-food-reports). The research into nutrition science done in this study is the basis for the SNAP maximum benefit allotments and this month’s increase.
The cost of providing healthy meals for recipients was first set in 1962. Other than being adjusted for inflation, it has not changed or taken into consideration the food revolution we are experiencing in America today.
The 1992 pyramid food chart was the original guide for nutritious eating. It promoted the consumption of complex carbohydrates and rejected all fats and oils. Recent studies have proven this information to be false so the pyramid has changed.
The new food plan encourages half of the meal contain vegetables, fruits and milk products while the other half consists of carbohydrates and protein. Exercise has also been recommended to maintain good health.
In revising the Thrifty Food Plan, the Agriculture Department used a list of two dozen food groups to estimate the cost of an economical, nutritious diet. They equated ounces of food to dollars.
This study detailed how someone could use their SNAP benefits to purchase the recommended daily calorie intake. (It should be noted that as the name implies this is meant to be supplemental.)
Joseph Jackson began receiving food stamps in 2011 after a spinal cord injury made it impossible for him to work. He was grateful for the help because at the time he was living with his elderly parents. The food subsidy meant he didn’t have to rely on their resources.
After applying for Social Security Disabilities Insurance (SSI) he was able to move out on his own. A portion of his SSI is used monthly to pay a percentage into the SNAP program.
Jackson said the start up of a pantry can be expensive but once that was done, he found he has enough to eat a healthy diet. Some Farmers Markets will give twice the amount of produce for each dollar spent using the SNAP program.
Oregon has experienced an increase in the amount of people applying for food stamps since the beginning of COVID-19. According to Jackson, his allotment increased to the maximum amount during the pandemic.
Oregon has a total of 810,000 people receiving SNAP, costing the federal government $162 million. In Multnomah County, there are 167,000 residents on the program.
There are three criteria for being eligible to receive SNAP.
• A person must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. An example for a family of three is $2,353 income per month.
• Net income, or household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the poverty line.
• Assets must fall below certain limits.
To find more out about eligibility, visit apps.state.or.us/onlineApplication.
History of Food Stamps
The economic collapse of the Great Depression (1929-1933) caused millions of Americans to suffer from hunger. At the same time, farmers found themselves with a glut of crops and livestock they couldn’t sell.
The US Department of Agriculture under President Franklin D. Roosevelt created artificial scarcity to boost prices by paying farmers to plow under their fields and slaughter their pigs.
Public outcry over this policy prompted the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation (FSCC) to purchase excess food and distribute it to those in need at no cost. This was in 1933, and was the rudimentary beginning of the US food stamp program.
Over the years the food stamp program has gone through many iterations trying to make it fair for the farmers, the grocers and the recipients. The program has always had bipartisan support and has been especially supported and expanded by Republican presidents.
Beginning in 1990, paper food stamps were eliminated and replaced with an electronic benefit transfer cards, similar to debit cards. This helped remove the stigma around buying groceries with food stamps and keeping the program users honest.
In 2008, the program’s name was changed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the name it is still referred to today.
Currently, SNAP serves 40 million Americans or nearly one in eight. One-third of these households receives the maximum benefit and rely on it for their total monthly grocery bill allotment.
Moving forward, the Thrifty Food Plan will be updated every five years with ongoing inflationary adjustments.