Aug. 18—Beginning in October, Texans across the state who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will begin to see an average monthly increase of $36 per person or a 25% increase — the single largest increase in the program’s history.

This adjustment is the first time the purchasing power of the Thrifty Food Plan has changed since it was first introduced in 1975, despite seismic shifts in food costs and changes in consumers’ cooking habits.

The increased assistance will affect 42 million SNAP beneficiaries.

On Monday, the United States Department of Agriculture announced how it calculates the Thrifty Food Plan. Texans will see an average monthly per-person benefit rise from $121 to $157, equivalent to $1.20 a day or 40 cents per meal.

East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane said as a hunger-relief organization, the food bank staff and leaders are relieved at the long-overdue update.

“The Thrifty Food Plan hadn’t been updated in more than 45 years and now more than ever, East Texas families are stretching their budgets thin to be able to put enough food on the table. Our communities have been struggling to meet the increased need for food assistance during the pandemic and we are thankful for this additional support in fighting hunger,” Cullinane said.

The East Texas Food Bank shared March 2021 hunger data obtained from Feeding America food insecurity numbers.

The 2021 food insecurity rates for ETFB’s 26-county coverage area increased to 19%, and 2021 child food insecurity rates for ETFB’s 26-county coverage area increased to 28%.

Approximately one in five East Texans, including more than one in four children, are facing hunger. According to Feeding America, 239,800 East Texans, including 85,450 children, are facing hunger.

Texas ranks seven in food insecurity rates at 20% for the total population and 22% for children.

Food banks welcomed USDA’s Monday announcement of an update to the calculation of federal food aid that will result in a 27% increase to SNAP benefits for Texas residents, equivalent to $1.5 billion annually. The update is also expected to increase the amount of USDA commodities available to food banks.

According to Feeding Texas, a nonprofit organization of which the East Texas Food Bank is a member, research has shown most families participating in SNAP exhaust their benefits in the first half of the month. This results in food insecurity and associated health problems in the second half of the month, including a documented increase in hospital admissions for diet-related diseases like diabetes.

“This is long overdue and sorely needed relief for families who are stretching to put enough food on the table,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “Everyone knows the cost of living is very different than it was in 1975. These adjustments, which are based on years of scientific research, will have an important impact for the families we serve.”

According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the USDA conducted the reevaluation, reflecting notable shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years.

In its reevaluation, USDA was driven by the latest available data on the four key factors identified in the 2018 farm bill: current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items. For example, the revised plan includes more fish and red and orange vegetables to align with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-25.

The East Texas Food Bank’s Benefits Assistance Team is available to help individuals apply for the program. Visit their website to learn more about the program and to enroll.