Congress Could Cut Billions in Future SNAP Benefits in Texas

New Feeding Texas report shows importance of regular updates to the Thrifty Food Plan for Texas and the North Texas Food Bank’s 13-county service area.

Photo courtesy Adobe Stock

U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson released a Farm Bill proposal on May 17 that would ultimately result in a roughly $30 billion SNAP cut over the next decade, making the benefit program inadequate to prevent hunger and support a nutritious diet.  

The proposal would do this by freezing the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), the basis for SNAP benefits, outside of inflation adjustments. Over the longer term, the cuts would grow larger—about $30 billion nationally in the next 10 years and a $2.29 billion cut in Texas, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates — and every person with SNAP benefits would be impacted.

To shed light on the implications of Thompson’s proposal, Feeding Texas released a Texas Thrifty Food Plan Impact Report. The report shows the impact of the 2021 TFP adjustment by looking at the estimated TFP increase, meal increase, and jobs supported in all 254 Texas counties due to the increased SNAP benefits in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

The report shows how effective it can be when SNAP benefits are updated to respond to the needs of communities facing hunger, and it underscores how important it is for Congress to pass a Farm Bill that protects future SNAP benefits and modernization of the Thrifty Food Plan.

In the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, Congress directed the USDA to update the TFP by 2022, and at regular five-year intervals after that, “based on current food prices, food composition data, consumptions patterns, and dietary guidance.” The resulting update was the first in the plan’s history and led to a meaningful increase in SNAP benefits for families across the country.

The 2021 update helped reduce poverty in America. The increase to SNAP benefit amounts helped keep 2.3 million people above the poverty line and decreased child poverty by 8.6%, according to Feeding America. In Texas, the update brought an estimated $1.502 billion increase in benefits, or nearly 483 million additional meals, to Texas to feed families in need in 2022. The update also helped to stimulate the Texas economy, supporting an estimated 18,006 jobs.

In the 13 counties served by the North Texas Food Bank, the update resulted in an estimated $213 million in benefits, or more than 68.5 million meals. The update also helped support around 2,555 jobs in North Texas, according to Feeding Texas.

The 2021 modernization of the Thrifty Food Plan was an overdue update that made up for 50 years of shortchanging families with inadequate benefits. We cannot wait another 50 years to make a similar adjustment.

Congress should pass a Farm Bill that allows the USDA to continue to use the most up-to-date data to make regular adjustments that help ensure SNAP benefits remain adequate.

There is bipartisan support for such a move. A majority of Democrats (93%), Independents (78%) and Republicans (78%) approve of the change Congress made in the 2018 Farm Bill that required regular updates to the amount people could get in monthly SNAP benefits, according to Feeding America.

Despite the progress made with the 2021 TFP update, SNAP benefits still do not keep pace with current food prices—falling short of what families need to help keep food on the table. SNAP benefit inadequacy leads to higher need for communities experiencing food insecurity and increases pressure on food banks.

That demand is something the North Texas Food Bank has seen. During the last fiscal year, the NTFB distributed a record 144 million meals, which was a 5% increase from the previous year and higher levels than seen even at the height of the pandemic.

Along with Feeding Texas and its network of food banks, the North Texas Food Bank is calling on Congress to maintain the USDA’s authority to modernize the Thrifty Food Plan regularly to account for important factors beyond inflation that affect the cost of a frugal, healthy diet, including changes in dietary guidelines and food consumption patterns.

Clarissa Clarke is the North Texas Food Bank Government Relations Officer.