Extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance related to the pandemic has ended, resulting in reduced monthly food benefits for millions of Americans.
Learn five ways you can save money and maximize your SNAP dollars when shopping for groceries.
Go to BenefitsCheckUp to learn more about SNAP and other money-saving benefits programs that can help you live better.
If you’re enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or sometimes called the Food Stamp Program), you may have seen a decrease in your monthly benefits during the last few months.
This is because the temporary boost in SNAP benefits introduced during the pandemic—known as emergency allotments, or EA—came to a stop for all U.S. states in March 2023. Eighteen states had already ended boosted benefits prior to this time.
How were SNAP benefits affected by the end of pandemic relief?
Millions of Americans are feeling the impact of extra SNAP benefits ending, with the average person receiving about $90 per month less in assistance. In October 2021, food assistance benefits increased by more than 25% for the 42 million SNAP beneficiaries nationwide. But now that's come to an end.
Without the extra boost, SNAP benefits in 2023 average about $6.10 per person daily. This new average would have been even lower without recent adjustments to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which determines the amount of SNAP benefits people receive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently updated the plan to better align with current food prices, the typical American diet, and the latest dietary guidance.
Roughly half of SNAP households also receive Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. The annual cost-of-living (COLA) increase by the Social Security Administration (SSA) resulted in higher income for many SNAP recipients. If this was the case for you, it may have affected your eligibility and lowered your monthly SNAP benefit amount.
How can I stretch my SNAP benefits further?
With less in SNAP benefits to rely on, you might be wondering, “How can I make my money go further at the grocery store? How can I keep buying the foods I need to stay healthy?”
We’ve put together five budget-boosting tips below:
- Buy store brands: Opting for cheaper, store-brand versions of your favorite products can help you save major money over time. And the best part? These often rival brand-name products in quality (and are sometimes even better).
- Shop the sales: Check your store’s weekly flyer to find money-saving deals. Most sales promotions start in the middle of the week, so that’s a great time to stock up on what you need. When in the supermarket, check the store entrance and the ends of store aisles for great buys. Build your weekly menu around what’s on sale.
- Plan your meals ahead of time: With meal planning, you can avoid impulse buys as well as extra trips to the supermarket. It also helps you streamline your grocery list and stick to the essentials.
- Clip all the coupons you can find: Clipping coupons might seem like a thing of the past, but it's still a great way to stretch your SNAP dollars further. These days, you can find money-saving coupons in the newspaper, online, and in weekly store flyers.
- Take advantage of store loyalty programs: Many grocery and big-box stores have reward programs that give you access to exclusive product savings and discounts. These are usually free to join and they're a good option if you shop the same stores regularly.
Not already enrolled in SNAP? NCOA can help.
Get help applying for SNAP
SNAP is a lifeline for many older adults who would otherwise have trouble affording the food they need. Take Mr. KC, for example. At age 64, Mr. KC had recently transitioned from a nursing facility. This meant he no longer had meals regularly provided to him, and he needed to figure out how to apply for food benefits. On top of this, Mr. KC was legally blind and knew he’d have difficulty reading any applications he had to fill out.
With help from one of NCOA’s Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs), Mr. KC was approved for full SNAP benefits worth $280 per month.
I’m very grateful for the support I received from Elder Law of Michigan,” he told us. “Now I can purchase the groceries I need.”
NCOA makes it easy to learn more and even find help to apply for SNAP assistance. To get started, go to BenefitsCheckUp.org, enter your ZIP code, and select Food and Nutrition programs. Answer a few short questions to determine your eligibility for SNAP and other types of benefits. If you qualify, we’ll also give you all the information you need to apply, whether you want to do it yourself or find someone to help you.
“Don't make the mistake of assuming you're not eligible for food assistance,” says Brandy Bauer, former Director of NCOA's MIPPA Resource Center. "Many states have relaxed their income and resource limits, and special rules allow more older adults and people with disabilities to take part in SNAP. You have nothing to lose by seeing if you qualify.”