They also factored in time: The plan assumes that SNAP families will get 99 percent of their beans from a can. Among the other convenience foods it includes are hard-boiled eggs, prepared salsa, baby carrots, boxed macaroni and cheese and bagged salad greens.
“It was a scientific, analytical process,” said Stacy Dean, a senior Agriculture Department official who oversees the program. “It wasn’t about approving a benefit increase.”
Fear of Running Out
SNAP users said the old budget imposed multiple strains, particularly the fear of running out of food. “You have to have extra brain space” to manage the anxiety, said Sheena Giles, an insurance agent in Columbia, S.C., with four children.
Many also said it led to unhealthy eating. Cynthia Williams, 67, a retiree in Las Vegas, said she often turned to high-sodium canned goods that were bad for her diabetes. “I make due with what I can get,” she said.
Dr. Hilary Seligman, who studies nutritional aid at the University of California, San Francisco, said a SNAP increase would significantly improve health. “This may be the most important change in the half-century history of the modern program,” she said.
But others note that nothing guarantees the needy will buy healthy food. Ms. Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute said “to the extent that SNAP contributes to poor diet,” an increase could even harm poor people’s health.
Anticipating the benefit increase last week, Republicans on Capitol Hill warned of a power grab. During the pandemic, Congress approved extraordinary, if temporary, SNAP increases, with average benefits doubling. Since those increases are now starting to expire, some Republicans see the updated plan as a backdoor effort to sustain a major welfare expansion.