By Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA senior director of government relations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced that monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits will increase by 27% beginning on Oct. 1, 2021. The increase is an important investment in the health of American families, community grocery stores and local economies.
USDA’s announcement is the outcome of its recent update to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which is the basis for calculating monthly SNAP allotments for participating families. The 2018 Farm Bill included language that required the department to update the TFP by 2022, which had not seen a major update since its creation in 1975. As many members of the food and nutrition community concur, the TFP update is long overdue, better reflects the cost of a healthy diet and provides greater access to healthy foods to the populations that need it most.
SNAP is a shining example of a public-private partnership. SNAP not only works as it is intended but it also features one of the lowest error rates of any federal program in existence. Independent community grocers are the key private partners with the federal government to administer SNAP and can attest that the program is critical to the health of local communities.
If it were not for SNAP, many grocery stores would simply not exist in areas that need them most. Numerous rural areas throughout the country are home to high concentrations of SNAP participants who rely on local grocery stores to access healthy and affordable foods. In many small towns, the local independent grocer is the only store in town and provides an anchor to the community.
SNAP populations are often disproportionately impacted by health disparities such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. USDA’s SNAP increase provides greater access to healthy foods to these families by stretching their benefits farther and allowing them to purchase more higher-cost foods such as fresh produce. Paired with SNAP-education programs that help participants learn how to get the best use out of their SNAP dollars, as well as programs like the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) that incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables, the SNAP increase goes a long way in helping families afford the higher costs of a healthy diet.
The economic impact of SNAP stretches far beyond a supermarket’s four walls, driving growth in ancillary businesses such as local restaurants, retailers and medical practices. An investment in SNAP is an investment in local economies. SNAP drives jobs and establishes a tax base necessary for local public sector investment.
A recent National Grocers Association study shows that SNAP purchase activity at retail stores was responsible for generating more than $1 billion in 2020 federal tax receipts and contributed to more than $975 million in state and local taxes. The study also shows that SNAP is responsible for nearly 200,000 grocery industry jobs, as well as nearly 45,000 jobs in supporting industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and municipal services.
It is clear that the TFP overhaul is an important investment in the health and well-being of families, independent community grocers and local economies across the nation.