President Joe Biden on Jan. 22 signed an executive order that could provide an additional 12 million people with enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and, at the same time, generate income for those producing, transporting and selling the food.
"We have to act now," Biden said in remarks before he signed the order. "We cannot, will not, let people go hungry."
Across the country, 1 in 7 households, and more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households, report that their household is struggling to secure the food they need, according to a White House fact sheet detailing the executive order.
To address this need, Biden is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow states to increase SNAP benefits—commonly known as food stamps—to those who need it most, which could mean enhanced benefits for an additional 12 million people, the White House said.
- See also: “NGA Outlines Independent Grocers’ Priorities in Letter to Biden” and “Stor.ai Adds SNAP Transaction Support”
The president is also asking the USDA to reassess the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits. The White House said the plan "is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face when trying to buy and prepare healthy food. As a result, the benefits fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households."
In statements provided to Winsight Grocery Business, both FMI–The Food Industry Association and the National Grocers Association (NGA) expressed appreciation for Biden’s quick actions to address food insecurity.
“As the nation continues to navigate economic downturns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, programs like the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) serve as the first line of defense for families or individuals who need to keep food on the table. FMI thanks President Biden for his immediate response to address food insecurity as a priority issue in the first week of his tenure,” said Hannah Walker, VP of political affairs for FMI.
The USDA Economic Research Service said in a 2019 analysis of SNAP that a $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits could increase the country's gross domestic product by $1.54 billion and support nearly 14,000 jobs.
“NGA appreciates the swift action that the new Biden administration is taking to increase access to nutritious foods for those most in need. Feeding Americans is a priority for independent community grocers, and we look forward to working with the administration to continue expanding access, including SNAP online purchases,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, senior director of government relations for NGA.
The executive order also asks the USDA to increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures by increasing the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (Pandemic-EBT) program, an electronic debit card for students who would have qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school, by 15%. Currently, the program allots up to $5.70 per child per school day, but the White House says an increase could provide a family with three children an additional $100 in support per month.
Biden also signed a second executive order on Jan. 22 to improve collecting bargaining power and protections for federal workers and direct the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to increase the minimum wage for federal employees to $15 per hour.