The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience

Maximum SNAP Benefit Still Falls Short for Families

November 9, 2011
Event Date: 
November 7, 2011

A new report, "The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet: 2011," released by Center for Hunger-Free Communities and Children's HealthWatch shows that families receiving the maximum SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit are still struggling to provide enough healthy food for their families.


We examined the affordability and accessibility of items on the Thrifty Food Plan market basket shopping list in Philadelphia. This report is an update to a previous study from 2008.  
Last revised in 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) is used as the national standard for a "nutritious diet at a minimal cost," in theory lifting families into food security. It is used to determine national poverty thresholds and serves as the basis for the maximum SNAP allotment.

  • The overall average monthly cost of the items on the TFP shopping list in all stores surveyed was $864. This represents a $196 monthly shortfall for families who receive the maximum SNAP benefit. Without the benefit increase from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), families would have experienced a $276 monthly shortfall.
  • On average, 35 percent of the items were unavailable in participating stores.  Half of TFP items were missing at small stores, many of which were fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

Results from this study show that the maximum SNAP allotment is not sufficient to purchase the items on the Thrifty Food Plan shopping list. Moreover, many of the items, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, were not available at participating stores.

Children's HealthWatch research demonstrates that SNAP is crucial to protecting and promoting children's health and well-being during their early years. As such, we recommend protecting SNAP's existing entitlement structure and maintaining the SNAP boost from ARRA in order to help families provide healthy, nutrient-rich food to their children. SNAP can help ensure that children are ready to learn and, later, ready to earn.
To read the full report, see our publication "The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet: 2011"


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