USDA takes another look at food price data for Hawaii

Jan 29, 2024

Last summer, millions of people across the United States who rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help cover the cost of groceries and other necessities learned that they would get a bump in their benefits starting on Oct. 1.

However, Hawaii residents were not among them.

In fact, the maximum allotment for Hawaii actually decreased. Benefit changes were based on the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for June 2022, but the problem was that Hawaii’s food price data was based on Honolulu only and not the state as a whole, failing to recognize the disparity between the cost of food on Oahu and in rural communities on the neighbor islands.

To address this, the USDA earlier this month announced it will be taking a second look, collecting information on food price data for the state as a whole.

Congresswoman Jill Tokuda applauded the announcement. Tokuda led members of the Hawaiʻi Congressional Delegation in highlighting the significant disparity between the cost of food on Oahu and in rural communities on the neighbor islands. She even introduced legislation in July to better account for the cost of local food and help more families in Hawaii afford healthy and nutritious food.

“I am pleased that the USDA recognizes the gross miscalculation that has been occurring in only considering food costs in Honolulu,” said Congresswoman Tokuda in a news release. “It has been unacceptable to me that SNAP benefits for Hawaiʻi have been calculated in a way that ignores every island other than Oahu which is contributing to a reduction of SNAP benefits for Hawaii families. When I fly throughout my district, I walk through grocery store aisles and see the higher prices and often empty shelves. Our ohana in the Second Congressional District deserve better, and I encourage the local food industry and research community to participate in the USDA’s Request for Information and submit comments on the price of food across our state.”

Read Congresswoman Tokuda’s news release >>