Measuring the Cost of a Thrifty Food Plan
The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) currently maintains four food plans that represent a nutritious diet for home consumption at different cost levels: Thrifty, Low Cost, Moderate Cost, and Liberal. The Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) serves as the “national standard for a nutritious diet at a minimal cost” and is used as the basis for the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotment. Food price data, food consumption pattern data, and dietary guidelines and standards are used to develop the TFP.
In 2020, CNPP received a Congressional Directive to examine the cost of a TFP in Puerto Rico. Currently, Puerto Rico has no TFP: Puerto Rico identifies its benefit levels for the Nutrition Assistance Program based on available funding through a block grant FNS approves annually. Developing a TFP that reflects consumption patterns and food prices in Puerto Rico would be one step toward implementing SNAP in the territory. However, because the data used to estimate the TFP are not available in Puerto Rico, the current TFP methodology cannot be simply applied there. CNPP contracted with Insight to develop and compare a comprehensive set of options for estimating a TFP specific to Puerto Rico and estimate the cost of these options.
The report outlines two approaches for measuring the cost of a TFP in Puerto Rico. Although some approaches yield higher quality results than others, no approach is without its drawbacks. The first approach would adjust the cost of the mainland TFP market basket for the reference family of four to account for differences in food prices in Puerto Rico. The second approach would update the food intake and food price inputs to the mainland TFP model and determine a set of market baskets specific to Puerto Rico. The report presents several options for each approach.