RICHMOND, Virginia – Tens of thousands of families in Virginia who rely on SNAP benefits to pay for their groceries will soon have better access to healthier diets.
That’s the assessment of local grocers and food insecurity experts after the USDA recalculated the Thirty Food Plan (TFP) for the first time in more than a decade.
The amount SNAP users receive each month is calculated based on the TFP and the USDA reassessment takes into account the modern cost of having a nutritious, convenient, and affordable diet. The change means the average increase in monthly SNAP benefits will increase by 25 percent, or $ 36 per person, starting October 1.
More information about the change can be found here.
Virginia officials said there are approximately 380,000 Virginia households that are eligible for SNAP benefits, although some families will see increases and other decreases based on their living conditions.
In the market on 25th Street in Church Hill, managers said about 50 percent of their customers were using EBT cards to pay part of their grocery bills earlier in the month. That number, they said, usually starts to decline as the month progresses and the SNAP benefits run out.
“When they get that first influx, they come and buy everything they can for the month and at the end of the month it was a struggle for them to keep the meals going,” said Jae Scott, the store manager. Scott expects more SNAP customers due to the TFP change.
“They are now able to take care of their families a little better throughout the month from start to finish,” he said, referring to the improved SNAP benefits from COVID-19.
Sarah Steely, director of No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the TFP change was changed for the second time since 1975 in 2021, noting that the prices and family dynamics of the “typical” American family have changed dramatically during that time.
“It made unrealistic assumptions about food costs and also about the structure of American families,” said Steely. “For decades, the frugal eating plan has greatly underestimated the cost of providing a family with healthy staple foods.”
Research shows that eating a healthy diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables offers many benefits for children. Steely said the developmental and emotional wellbeing of tens of thousands of Virginia children whose families qualify for SNAP cannot be overlooked.
“It has both short and long term effects on children, right. Access to nutritious meals and a full belly have lifelong effects, ”she said. “Maybe access to higher-paying jobs, high school diplomas, and the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty they experienced as a child.”
“This is a program that will work with other initiatives, such as the work of community nonprofits like school lunch programs, to ensure that families can bring these programs together and find a solution that works for them,” said Steely.
The market on 25th Street has a program that gives SNAP customers 50 percent off the price of fresh produce, and said it was a tangible example of how buying behavior changes as the grocery budget goes up.
Rhiannon Moss, Customer Service Manager, sees this firsthand with repeat SNAP customers when they bring their carts to the checkout.
“Your purchases have more fruits and vegetables every time they come,” Moss said. “You see your family make better decisions and they love it. It is not forced on them, they do it themselves. “
The increased benefits come into effect on October 1st. Read more about the process here.