Come October, it will be a little easier for food stamp recipients to afford groceries.
Their monthly benefits are going up 12.5%, or $104 for a family of four, thanks to soaring inflation, according to the US Department of Agriculture. That brings the maximum benefit for this size household to $939 a month, up from $835.
Benefit levels are based on the cost of the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan each June, and the change takes effect in October.
This year’s cost of living adjustment is the largest annual percentage increase since the Thrifty Food Plan was developed in 1975 and stems from the massive jump in inflation since last year.
“It will put SNAP benefits better in line with the increase in the cost of food over the past year,” Dottie Rosenbaum, director of federal SNAP policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as food stamps are formally known.
Nearly 41 million people were enrolled in the food stamp program in June, according to the most recent USDA data. The average monthly benefit is just over $218 per person.
Grocery prices soaring
Even with this hefty adjustment, food stamp recipients are already falling behind since inflation has continued to rise since June.
Grocery prices jumped 13.5% in August, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Egg prices soared nearly 40%, while milk rose 17% and bread jumped 16%. The cost of chicken grew 16%, while fruit and vegetables together are up more than 9%.
The higher costs for food are putting a strain on many Americans’ budgets, including those who receive food stamps. Many are turning to food pantries to supplement what they buy in the supermarket.
Some 40% of food pantries and soup kitchens in the Feeding America network saw an increase in the number of people served in July compared with June, according to a recent survey conducted by the anti-hunger group. Another 40% said demand remained about level.
Some pandemic assistance is still in place – for now
Many food stamp recipients are still benefiting from a Covid-19 pandemic relief program that Congress enacted early in the outbreak. Lawmakers raised enrollees’ monthly food stamp allotment to the maximum amount for their family size – a minimum of $95 a month. Some 34 states and the District of Columbia still have this program in place.
A separate 15% boost to benefits ended a year ago.
Those receiving food stamps also received a major permanent increase in benefits last year when the USDA revised its Thrifty Food Plan formula. This resulted in a $36 per person hike in monthly allotments.