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The Thrifty Food Plan: What It Is and Why It Matters

by Food and Nutrition Service Public Affairs

At the direction of Congress and with the support of President Biden as part of the administration’s Build Back Better initiative, USDA is re-evaluating the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) to ensure that it reflects the cost of a practical, nutritious, budget-conscious diet. The re-evaluation is based on four factors: the cost of food, nutrients in food, nutrition guidance, and what Americans eat. USDA plans to publish its re-evaluation soon.

What is the Thrifty Food Plan?

USDA develops four food plans that estimate the cost of a nutritious diet across various price points—the Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost and Liberal Food Plans. The Thrifty Food Plan is the lowest cost of the four.

The TFP represents the cost to purchase groceries for a family of four – an adult male and female, ages 20-50, and two children, ages 6-8 and 9-11. The plan is designed to meet the nutritional needs of an average person consuming a healthy, cost-conscious diet at home.

Why is the Thrifty Food Plan important?

The Thrifty Food Plan plays a critical role in calculating Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit amounts. By law, the cost of the TFP in June each year is equal to the maximum SNAP benefit for a household of four people for the following October through September. That amount is then adjusted to determine the maximum benefit for households of other sizes.

Why is USDA re-evaluating the Thrifty Food Plan?

The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to re-evaluate the TFP no later than 2022 and then every five years thereafter. Since the TFP was last updated in 2006, there have been notable changes to dietary guidance, food prices, and what Americans purchase and eat. The current re-evaluation uses the most up-to-date data available to reflect those changes.

For more information on the TFP, check out: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/thriftyfoodplan

For more on recent TFP listening sessions, read: www.usda.gov/media/blog/2021/08/09/you-spoke-we-listened-challenges-purchasing-healthy-food-snap-benefits

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