SNAP spending reached an all-time high of $113.8 billion in fiscal year 2021, according to the USDA. This is largely due to recent economic challenges in the last few years and the expansion of SNAP benefits during the pandemic.
Important Changes to SNAP Authorization
Throughout the existence of the government assistance program that helps families in need buy food, there have been a number of legislative actions to enhance and refine the way the program operates. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 renamed the Food Stamp Program, SNAP and set in place rules for the program that included the way benefits would be distributed, as well as how they could be used. Under this act, the terms of eligibility for retailers to accept SNAP benefits were defined as well. In 2014, the Agricultural Act amended the Food and Nutrition Act to increase the requirements for SNAP retailers. The requirements are as follows:
- Retail food stores must have available, on a continual basis, at least seven varieties of items in each of the four staple food categories (meat, bread, vegetables and fruits, dairy).
- Food stores must have perishable foods in a minimum of three of these staple food categories.
In February of 2016, the Food and Nutrition Service proposed the codification of the regulations for SNAP retailer eligibility under the Agricultural Act of 2014, or Farm Bill. They also proposed new rules that would further limit this eligibility. The proposed changes came about after FNS collected feedback from over 200 entities (retailers, academics, trade associations, etc.) in an effort to improve the effectiveness of SNAP.
The proposed standards would not only enforce the requirements above, but also require that a minimum of six stocking units per variety be kept in-store at all times. The rules also disqualify any store at which items that are cooked or heated on-site make up more than 15% of the store’s sales (including establishments where another food business is under the same roof). You can find the complete explanation of the proposal here.
These proposed standards are of great concern to many convenience store owners and operators, as the new rules would make it very difficult for their stores to become and remain authorized SNAP retailers. Many SNAP retailers with small, single location stores believe the rules are unrealistic and will only negatively affect their business’ profits.
What should you do?
As of now, FNS is collecting comments from interested parties in regards to the proposed changes. This gives the public, especially concerned store owners, the opportunity to voice their opinions. If you’re interested in expressing concerns, you can do so by writing a letter detailing your thoughts on the rule and the impact it will have on your store specifically, as well others. It is important that your comment be as complete and detailed as possible, and submitted properly before May 18, 2016 to be considered.
To submit a comment, visit https://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FNS-2016-0018-0099
or mail your comment to:
Chief, Retailer Management and Issuance Branch
Retailer Policy and Management Division, Room 418
3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, Virginia 22302