SNAP program change can level the playing field between home and school meals

CLEVELAND – For the first time since 1975, part of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is being overhauled.

The update means that the money families spend on food will go further. It can help close the gap between nutrition at school and what children receive at home.

Lunchtime in schools is organized chaos. There are a lot of moving parts – lines, to set the trays well, to call the kids up to a break in learning, the purpose of these lunches can be lost.

“Students who come to our schools can get these fresh fruits and vegetables, these lean proteins that may be out of reach for them at home,” said Chris Burkhardt, executive director of school nutrition at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

The platters in the districts of Ohio are full of food that will help keep children satisfied while they are in school. But, sometimes when they get home, the same type of meal is not available.

“They’re really excited about apples, oranges, bananas, pears, green beans,” Burkhardt said.

A change in any part of the SNAP benefits can level the playing field.

“So the average person will see an increase in their benefits from about $ 12 to $ 16,” said Kimberly LoVano of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

This increase is per person, per month. This is the result of a change in the “Thrifty Food Plan”. The plan is developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“And it’s called thrifty for a reason,” LoVano said. “You have to be frugal to stretch your budget enough to keep food on the table with the amount of money it costs.”

This eating plan is the “bare minimum” for what could be spent and still have what the USDA has said is a nutritious meal. The plan did not follow.

“The benefits of SNAP were far too modest before the pandemic hit,” LoVano said. “$ 1.40 per person per meal is barely enough to keep food on the table. “

The updated plan takes into account modern food prices and eating habits. There are more fish and vegetables listed and less time consuming foods. For example, the previous version of the plan “called for families to spend a few hours a day preparing dried beans for consumption,” said Joree Novotny of the Ohio Association of Food Banks.

Now he’s factoring in canned and frozen foods and rising prices in grocery stores.

The outdated plan means meals at home were not the same as meals at school, and Burkhardt said CMSD could see the impact occur in dining rooms on Monday.

“They may have had a meal,” he said of the increase in free breakfasts handed out on Monday mornings. “They might have had food but they might not have had nutrition and that’s what’s important here.”

He said this change to the thrifty food plan is a good first step for families in Cleveland as the region battles the highest child poverty rate in the country.

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