USDA to boost food stamps by record amount

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USDA to boost food stamps by record amount

The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) has said that it will on Monday will announce revised nutrition standards dramatically boosting average food stamp benefits.

The New York Times reported the plan to unveil the largest permanent benefits increase in the history of the government's primary anti-hunger program, saying the change would result in average benefits rising more than 25% versus pre-pandemic levels.

All 42 million people in the program will receive additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last.

Under the new rules, average monthly benefits, $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36 starting in October, the newspaper reported, adding that all 42 million people in the program would receive additional aid.

At the same time, a temporary 15% increase in benefits as part of pandemic relief is set to expire Sept. 30. The $3.5 billion boost approved earlier this year provides about $27 more per person, per month, or over $100 more a month for a household of four, in additional food stamp benefits.

Despite the overall increase, the USDA will only recommend minor extra expenditure on vegetables and a small reduction in fruit purchases. Guidelines for the USDA's weekly food plan for a family of four currently includes $29 on fruit and $44 on vegetables, while under the new plan it will recommend $27 on fruit and $46 on vegetables. The biggest increases come in protein, grains and dairy.

The USDA plans a media briefing on Monday to detail the changes, but a spokeswoman for the agency, Kate Waters, confirmed the Times report in an email.

For at least a decade, critics of the benefits have said they were too low to provide an adequate diet. More than three-quarters of households exhaust their benefits in the first half of the monthly cycle, and researchers have linked subsequent food shortages to problems as diverse as increased hospital admissions, more school suspensions and lower SAT scores.

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