From SNEB: An Informed Thrifty Food Plan | Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)

From SNEB: An Informed Thrifty Food Plan

Posted by: on Sunday April 10, 2022

by Oyinlola T. Babatunde, PhD, MPH, RDN, FAND, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, Healthy Aging Division Point Person, SNEB Advisory Committee on Public Policy Lesli Biediger-Friedman, PhD, MPH, RD Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, Member, SNEB Advisory Committee on Public Policy Sara A. Elnakib, PhD, MPH, RDN Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, Chair-Elect, SNEB Advisory Committee on Public Policy Jule Anne Henstenburg, PhD, RD, LDN, FAND, The MANNA Institute, MANNA, Philadelphia, PA, Member, SNEB Advisory Committee on Public Policy; Serah Theuri, PhD, RD University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, International Nutrition Education Division Point Person, SNEB Advisory Committee on Public Policy

Nutrition education and policy interventions related to food insecurity are in our opinion critically important topics for nutrition educators. The recent changes to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) have the potential to impact millions of Americans.1

The TFP is 1 of 4 food plans (Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal) developed by the USDA. Last updated in 2006, the TFP de- scribes the minimum cost to achieve adequate nutritional intake per defined quantities and types of food (“market basket”) for a 4-person family of 2 adults (male and female, 20−50 years old) and 2 children (6−8 years old and 9−11 years old). This TFP describes the specific foods that families should purchase in pounds per week to be consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.2

The TFP is used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, designed to provide a nutritionally adequate diet at a minimal cost for a family of 4.3 The cost of TFP has remained fixed since the 1970s with adjustment for inflation. Last revised in 2006, TFP falls short of the cost for many families to afford a healthy, adequate diet.1 The TFP lagged behind economic changes and is not reflective of the cost of foods necessary to meet recent dietary guidelines. Criticism of the TFP includes its inability to meet Recommended Daily Allowances of certain nutrients,4 failure to take into consideration labor cost associated with preparing the TFP,5 and environmental factors such as the availability of low-price bulk items.6

Changes to TFP became effective on October 1, 2021. This revised plan, with special federal pandemic aid, offers an increase in average monthly SNAP benefits from $121 per person (fiscal year 2019) to $240 per person (fiscal year 2021). This includes a temporary 15% increase in emergency allotments for participating states. The revised average benefit considers food inflation and reflects USDA’s revised estimate to support a nutritious, practical, and cost-effective diet.7 The TFP allows for more convenience foods such as bagged salad and canned beans instead of dried beans, compared with the plan in effect from 2006.7 Recent changes in the TFP are considered a long-term investment in children and at-risk population groups, which is crucial to the health and future of the nation.

It is pertinent that the TFP is reflective of the market experience of the public.5 In 2021, SNEB President Pam Koch wrote an editorial advocating for SNEB members to participate in and support the revision of the TFP.8 Heeding this call, SNEB members have participated in the USDA stakeholder listening sessions and expressed concerns with the plan (personal communication, Elnakib, 2022). Now with a new TFP, SNEB members can continue the conversation and support advocacy nutrition.


  1. Carlson S, Keith-Jenning B, Llobrera, Policy brief: modernizing SNAP benefits would help millions better afford healthy food. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www. modernizing-snap-benefits-would- help-millions-better-afford-healthy- food. Accessed January 17, 2022.
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agricul- 2005  Dietary Guidelines  for Americans. US Department of Agricul- ture; 2005.
  1. US Department of Agriculture. SNAP and the Thrifty Food Plan. https:// Accessed January 17, 2022.
  2. Lane S, Vermeersch J. Evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan: menus based on the Thrifty Food Plan can not assure dietary adequacy. J Nutr Educ.1979;11:96–98.
  3. Davis G, You The thrifty food plan is not thrifty when labor cost is considered. J Nutr. 2010;140: 854–857.
  4. Jetter KM, Adkins J, Cortez S, Hop- per GK, Shively V, Styne DM. Yes we can: eating healthy on a limited budget. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2019;51: 268–276.
  1. US Department of Agriculture. Thrifty Food Plan, 2021. US Department of Agriculture; 2021 https://fns-prod.azur- net/sites/default/files/resource- files/TFP2021.pdf.
  2. Koch Making “thrifty” go further. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2021;53:277.

Originally published in the April 2022 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior