USDA Looking To Change Laws For SNAP Retailers

USDA Looking To Change Laws For SNAP Retailers

EBT Blog
By: Brett Mahoney

Jun 30, 2016

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to change laws with regards to the food stamp program. If passed, the plan would require stores that accept food stamps, SNAP Retailers, to have in stock fresh meats, shrimp, fresh vegetables, and even goat's milk, along with a wider selection of dairy products, and fewer quick meals including ready to go pizza and hot dogs. This is not a big issue for major grocery stores, however this will affect corner convenience stores. To find out how to accept food stamps at your store, how to become an authorized SNAP retailer.

These small corner stores offer quick, ready to go cooked foods. Customers who have an EBT card usually purchase junk food items at these stores including soft drinks and snack foods. Because of spoilage concerns, stores with small space are less likely to stock fruits and vegetables and could be at risk of being forced out of the food stamp program with these requirements. Stores that accept food stamps get nearly 6% of their sales from food stamp clients. Currently there are 45 million Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

An unusually bipartisan group of lawmakers warn that if small stores stop accepting food stamps, many consumers won't have alternatives nearby. House and Senate committees have held hearings on the proposal and recently passed amendments that would essentially block the USDA from implementing portions that retailers view as government overreach. Congress is expected to vote on those amendments in coming weeks, while the USDA reviews feedback from various stakeholders.

It is very important for grocers to be able to redeem food stamps at their location due to the current slow sales growth. Last year, funds from the SNAP program comprised an average of 5.8% of sales at stores that accept EBT cards, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Noon's Food Stores, a chain of three in Missoula, Mont., said the rules would force its stores out of the program, sending customers elsewhere. "Unlike corporate grocery stores, or big-box stores like Wal-Mart that literally have acres of space under one roof, our stores are each around 2,400 square feet in total," the company said.

This law change proposal has prompted over 1,200 written letters to the USDA, sent by corporate executives representing hundreds of stores, corner grocers across the rural U.S., and nutrition advocates lobbying for healthier food in low-income neighborhoods. "We know that stores benefit from the revenue; that's important to us," said Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, in an interview. "But we also believe that with the right to receive these taxpayer benefits for the food, that there ought to be just a basic minimum of healthy foods."

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