Reforming the Thrifty Food Plan

By Parker Gilkesson

Adequate access to food is economic justice. But too many people with low incomes are forced to stretch their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because they’re not enough to cover the cost of food. In 2020, the SNAP benefit per person per meal was only $1.39, not enough to pay for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread.

The SNAP benefit is determined by the grossly outdated and inadequate Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). That 46-year old plan doesn’t reflect the current economy, cost of living, cost of food, the time it takes to cook it, diverse dietary needs, adequate transportation or food apartheid where access to healthy and affordable food is limited.

All these factors disproportionately affect people of color because of discrimination, low wages, and distinct cultural foods that are not considered in nutrional standards. It’s time to reevaluate the TFP to increase SNAP benefits as a critical step forward in the journey toward equity and anti-racism. To achieve the overall goal of food sovereignty, we must partner with organizers and community members to create a viable plan to end food apartheid, and address stigma and horrible treatment when folks apply or receive public benefits.

View the synopsis in TIME Magazine's special feature "40 Ways to Build a More Equitable America" here.