Rebecca talks to Brookings Fellow Lauren Bauer about the steps the Biden administration is taking to increase too-low federal food assistance benefits, starting with updating an archaic policy called the “Thrifty Food Plan” — and the larger agenda to expand SNAP. Subscribe to Off-Kilter on iTunes.
We’ve talked a great deal over the years on this show about how critically important but too low benefits are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps. The nation’s main federal food assistance program, SNAP helps roughly 40 million people put food on the table — but with benefits averaging just $1.40 per person per meal, most families report running through their food budgets 2–3 weeks into the month. At the heart of why SNAP benefits bear so little resemblance to the cost of an adequate healthy diet is an archaic policy called the Thrifty Food Plan. And it’s this so-called Thrifty Food Plan that’s the subject of the opening salvo in the Biden administration’s effort to expand SNAP.
In an executive order issued last month just days after taking office, President Biden directed the US Department of Agriculture to reassess the woefully out of date “Thrifty Food Plan” that determines household SNAP benefit amounts — and to update food assistance benefits to “ensure they reflect the true cost of a basic healthy diet.”
For a look at the history and underpinnings of the Thrifty Food Plan, why benefits need to be increased, and the broader agenda to expand SNAP, Rebecca sat down (virtually) with Lauren Bauer, a fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution whose research focuses on federal food assistance (and who is not a cat).
This week’s guest:
- Lauren Bauer, Fellow at the Brookings Institute (@LaurenLBauer)
- Here’s more from Lauren on food insecurity in the U.S.
- Here are the Trump SNAP rules Lauren mentioned and their status: the rule making SNAP’s work reporting requirements even harsher (tied up in court for the moment); Trump’s “public charge” rule (under review); the rule gutting “categorical eligibility” (withdrawn); the rule gutting the Standard Utility Allowance (withdrawn)
- Here’s more on how SNAP serves as an automatic stabilizer, to help boost the economy during recessions
- Here’s more on why so-called “work requirements” don’t work
- Follow Lauren on Twitter