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USDA Modernizes Method to Calculate Nutrition Data, Informs SNAP Benefits; Data Linkage Work by Westat

November 3, 2021

A modernized Thrifty Food Plan—the basis for calculating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)  benefits—is now available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For the first time since the introduction of the plan 45 years ago, the method used to make the cost adjustment incorporates current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items. Westat provided support to the USDA Economic Research Service and Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion for the development.

Westat used a combination of automated probabilistic linkage methods, manual quality control review, and dietary coding expertise to link nationwide food cost data to consumption and nutrient data. The resulting programs and data files enabled USDA to determine the true cost of a nutritious and practical diet, demonstrating the need to increase SNAP benefits substantially. Westat has completed several rounds of this work for USDA, beginning with food price data from 2010.

For the USDA press release, see USDA Modernizes the Thrifty Food Plan, Updates SNAP Benefits

For details about the process, see USDA’s Purchase to Plate Price Tool Estimates Food Costs for National Food Intake Data


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