Monday, May 9, 2016


As any parent of a teenager knows, his or her child eats a lot. The new U.S. dietary guidelines estimate that teens need as many calories as their parents, and more than three times their younger siblings. While the dietary guidelines treat teenagers like adults, SNAP benefit calculations do not. The maximum SNAP benefit is based on the monthly cost of the USDA’s “Thrifty Food Plan” for a hypothetical (or “reference”) family of two adults and two children under age 12. By USDA’s own calculations, feeding a family of four with two teenage boys would cost $50 more per month than the maximum SNAP benefit available to the family. Reformulating the Thrifty Food Plan with the needs of teens in mind could help to reduce food insecurity and very low food security among recipient households with teenagers.

Nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs could also be revised to pay particular attention to the dietary needs of teenagers and children living in food-insecure households. Current calorie guidelines, developed to reduce obesity, result in male teens getting about 50% of their daily calories from school meals compared to elementary school children who can get up to 75% of their daily calories at school.

Source: Brookings Institution, 4/29/16, Hungry Teens