USDA will increase SNAP benefits due to Thrifty Food Plan review

The US Department of Agriculture announced on Monday an increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to a review of the Thifty Food Plan, mandated by a bipartisan farm bill that was passed in 2018. Monthly benefits in Texas will rise approximately 27% starting in October.

“It is a big day, especially for those 42 million Americans who rely on SNAP for supplemental assistance to feed themselves and their families,” said Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture.

The Thrifty Food Plan, a baseline diet used to calculate benefit levels, had not been updated since 1975 and so failed to capture shifts in food costs and consumers’ circumstances. The update is also expected to increase the amount of USDA commodities available to food banks.

“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.”

The increase will amount to an additional 1.5 billion in benefits to SNAP-enrolled families in Texas. That is an average monthly increase of $36 per person, equivalent to $1.20 per day or 40 cents per meal.

“Our food banks have been struggling to meet increased food needs in their communities,” said Cole. “We know SNAP can reach many more people and offer food assistance on a much larger scale than we can. This change will re-balance the program in favor of healthier diets and reduced hunger in Texas.”

For more about the update to SNAP benefits, click here.

The East Texas Food Bank has a Benefits Assistance Program that helps East Texans complete applications for social service benefits, such as SNAP. To learn more about the program and request in-person or virtual assistance, click here.

Additional benefits available again for families due to pandemic


Last year, the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Texas Education Agency made additional benefits available to families through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. P-EBT provides food benefits for families with children who temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price meals at school during the COVID-19 pandemic. This one-time benefit is being offered again to families starting June 2nd.

Who is eligible?

Families with children who meet one of the following criteria:

  • Up to 21 years old and certified for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) at a school in Texas during the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Up to 21 years old and attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) school that offers free meals to all students.
  • Born after August 1, 2014, in families who received SNAP benefits for at least one month between October 2020 and June 2021.

What can families buy with P-EBT funds?

Household food items, such as fruits, meats/poultry/fish, dairy and breads. P-EBT benefits can be used wherever SNAP food benefits are accepted.

Do I need to apply for these P-EBT benefits?

Families receiving SNAP benefits prior to May 2021 DO NOT need to apply to receive the P-EBT benefits. They will automatically be loaded onto these families’ Lone Star Cards from May 25th to May 29th. A notice will be mailed after their benefits have been loaded.

Families receiving SNAP benefits for the first time in May 2021 or June 2021, or eligible families not receiving SNAP benefits will need to apply for P-EBT benefits. A P-EBT card will be mailed after applying.

Where can I get additional information about the P-EBT program or apply?

Click here to download a flyer about the P-EBT program or visit the Texas HHSC website. You can apply online or you can reach the P-EBT call center at 833-442-1255.

**Applications must be submitted no later than August 13, 2021**

College students may be eligible for SNAP benefits under temporary program

College students are not exempt from facing hunger. In fact, 39% of students at two-year institutions and 29% at four-year institutions were reported as not having proper access to food in a recent study by The Hope Center. According to Every Texan, “71% of undergraduate college students are single parents, come from low-income families, or work at least half-time, making this the first time in history that lower-income students are enrolling in college at higher rates than their middle-income classmates.”

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides a defensive to help combat hunger. However, most full-time students are not eligible to receive benefits. Of those eligible, only 4 out of 10 are enrolled.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress made temporary adjustments to SNAP to remove restrictions and allow more students to qualify for benefits. Eligibility is determined by the following:

  • Student must be enrolled at least half-time in a higher education institution (college, university or trade/technical school).
  • Student must participate in state or federally funded work-study during the school year OR
  • Student has an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year
    (Any student who receives the maximum Pell Grant has an EFC of 0).

Documentation such as a financial aid award letter, letter from school, Student Aid Report (SAR) or unemployment documentation may need to be provided to verify benefit eligibility. The new, temporary exemptions will be in effect until 30 days after the federal government lifts the official designation of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency.

Our Benefits Assistance Team at the East Texas Food Bank can help you or someone you know determine qualification for these important benefits. Click here to fill out a Benefits Assistance Request and a representative will follow up with you.

New USDA benefit to help provide food to families with children that have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals

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Because of school closures from COVID-19, Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits to families with children that have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) provides eligible families with a one-time payment for each child who previously received free or reduced-price meals. P-EBT works the same way Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits do and will help families get the food they need during the current pandemic. P-EBT will be administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas Education Agency.

Here are some key points about this program:

  • Families will receive a one-time benefit of approximately $285 per eligible child.
  • Families currently participating in SNAP with kids ages 5-18 will have the benefits added to their Lonestar cards by May 22nd.
    No application is needed.
  • Families on SNAP with kids under age 5 or ages 19-21, and families that are not on SNAP will receive a letter from their school district by May 31 with instructions to enroll in P-EBT via a simple, online application. After enrolling online, families will receive an EBT card with those benefits as soon as their applications are processed.
  • Getting this one-time benefit will not affect a family’s eligibility for other benefits.
  • P-EBT is available to families regardless of immigration status. Getting this one-time benefit will not keep a family member from getting a green card.

P-EBT will help essential workers and their families- like Melynda’s.

“I have two school-aged children. I was only able to get the curb-side lunches for my kids two days total because I work at Walgreens and I work almost non-stop during this pandemic,” Melynda said. “I just checked and got my P-EBT today. Very excited about them giving us the max amount plus this “bonus”. I feel like for once, my pantry and freezer will be full. I normally get $400/ month on SNAP. I ration that out and go shopping once a week. If I try to go for the whole month, with teenage boys in the house, they see food, they eat it. But for once, they can have snacks and such.”