What are the Pandemic Food Aid Programs that are ending?
The Farmers to Families Food Box was an important program that fed many people in Wisconsin. The ending of that program impacted the emergency food system across the state. Another concern is the upcoming changes to the FoodShare program.
FoodShare is a critical program for families in need. FoodShare provides food aid to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin families each month. The program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Benefits are spent in the community they are received and often run out before the end of the month.
FoodShare improves food insecurity and health outcomes for children and their families. Nearly 40% of FoodShare recipients in Wisconsin are under 17 years old. The average monthly benefit, about $138 per person, is uploaded to an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card and can be used to purchase food at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. FoodShare maximum benefit levels are uniform across all states (except for Alaska and Hawaii) and the District of Columbia. SNAP’s maximum benefit levels are based on the Thrifty Food Plan. USDA recently announced a new formula for the Thrifty Food Plan, which will increase the maximum monthly benefit for FoodShare.
Doesn’t that mean a significant increase for FoodShare?
Last week, the USDA announced the first update to FoodShare (known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP) in over 45 years. This step is long overdue and will help those in Wisconsin struggling to put food on their table. The update begins on October 1 and will replace the 15% bump that expires at the end of September.
What is the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP)?
The Thrifty Food Plan – developed by USDA in 1975 – is a complex formula to determine a minimal cost, nutritious meal plan. The TFP was last revised in 2006. The Thrifty Food Plan has been adjusted only for inflation since the 1970s; FoodShare benefits have not kept up with other significant changes, like evolving dietary guidelines, how food preparation and consumption has changed over recent decades, or the constraints of time-strapped working families. The 2018 Farm Bill directed a revision to the TFP.
President Biden called upon USDA to evaluate TFP to reflect current realities for struggling families better. Much has changed in understanding nutrition and health in the nearly 50 years since the TFP was designed. Last week, the USDA announced the updated TFP.
Looming “cliff”: End of Emergency FoodShare allotments
Due to another COVID program (called “Emergency Allotments”), all FoodShare households receive the maximum allotment. When the federal public health emergency ends, the emergency allotments will also end, creating a very real “food cliff” for families. In January, the Emergency COVID FoodShare allotments are set to end. That means a senior receiving $234/month in FoodShare in August 2021 will see their benefits increase due to the TFP in October to $322 and will experience a decrease when the emergency allotments end and will receive $20/month in FoodShare in January 2022.