USDA Commits to Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico

On August 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a 23% increase – worth $463.8 million in annual funding – for nutrition assistance in the U.S. territory on Puerto Rico effective October 1, 2021.

This increase – conducted nationwide – was driven by a Congressionally-mandated re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, a data-driven estimate of the cost of a nutritious, practical, cost-effective diet. The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to modernize the Thrifty Food Plan, which plays a critical role in determining benefit amounts for some federal nutrition assistance programs.

Although Puerto Rico’s increase is substantial, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal entitlement available to residents of the 50 states, provides more generous benefits to its recipients.

American Rescue Plan Funding

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also announced $966.12 million in additional annual nutrition assistance funds for Puerto Rico.

Nearly half the residents of Puerto Rico rely on the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the Island’s equivalent of SNAP (food stamps) in the States.

The funds are part of the American Rescue Plan.

“As part of President Biden’s commitment to deliver economic relief and ensure every family can afford to put food on the table, today’s actions will provide much-needed support for those who need it most,” said USDA Food Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Region Administrator Dr. Patty Bennett. “This additional nutrition assistance funding will help Puerto Ricans feed their families.”

What difference will the funds make?

The new funds will provide an additional $11 per month for as much as one year, for households with elderly residents. All households eligible for NAP will also receive an additional $58 per month. The current amount received under the NAP program is $112 for a one-person household.

In the States, the USDA is providing an extra $28 per person, per month.

A recent survey found that COVID-19 has increased food insecurity in Puerto Rico from one third to 40% of households. Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico imported 85% of the food eaten on the Island.

The hurricane devastated Puerto Rico’s agriculture. According to the USDA, the territory lost 37% of its farms and 80% of crops. The territory is working to increase food grown on the Island.

NAP helps to bridge the gap, but the amounts provided are lower in Puerto Rico than in any State. The additional funds will make a difference.

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