May 22, 2024 - Health

SNAP benefits fall short amid rising grocery costs, study finds

Illustration of the SNAP logo falling down a cliff made of a hundred-dollar bill.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

SNAP benefits fail to cover the rising costs of groceries in 98% of U.S. counties, according to a new Urban Institute analysis.

Why it matters: The report's release comes ahead of a Thursday markup of House Republicans' $1.5 trillion farm bill, as advocates say proposed cuts could further undermine the federal food aid program.

The big picture: The benefits, also known as food stamps, are a major sticking point in competing House and Senate versions of the annual farm bill this year, The Hill reported.

  • Republican lawmakers say the House version wouldn't cut SNAP benefits, but it would roll back changes made by the Biden administration to increase the benefit over 10 years to keep up with rising food costs.
  • Senate Democrats have denounced the House bill.

By the numbers: In the last quarter of 2023, there was a 53-cent gap between the $3.37 that the report estimates is the cost for a modestly priced meal and SNAP's average maximum benefit of $2.84.

  • That gap shrank from 63 cents in the first three quarters.
  • That amounts to a monthly shortfall ranging between roughly $49 and $59 last year.
  • "The greatest shortcoming of SNAP today is that even with some of the changes that have happened over the last few years, that benefits for most households are not enough to get through the entire month," said Jamie Bussel of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study.
  • "It is a critically important program that needs to be made adequate, not cut or restricted."

What to watch: The Biden administration has doubled down on the food program, announcing a summer nutrition programs for kids that will provide a grocery benefit of $120 per eligible school-age child this summer.

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