Proposed USDA Rule would Expand SNAP Offerings in Grocery Stores

Proposed USDA Rule would Expand SNAP Offerings in Grocery Stores
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February 16, 2016

If passed, a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increased access to healthy foods.

The rule would require stores that accept SNAP to stock a wider array of food choices that include multiple options in the four staple food groups (dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables). At least 168 items would be required to be SNAP eligible. The rule would also make public the stores that were sanctioned for SNAP violations.

"This proposed rule ensures that retailers who accept SNAP benefits offer a variety of products to support healthy choices for those participating in the program," Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said in a written statement.

SNAP retailers would be required to offer seven varieties of qualifying foods in the staple food groups for sale on a continuous basis, along with perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups. In addition, the proposal calls for retailers to stock at least six units within each variety.

The proposed rule will also disclose information about SNAP retailers disqualified or sanctioned for program violations. Information would be limited to the name and address of the store, the owners' and officers' names, and the nature of the violation for which the retailer was sanctioned.

The USDA is working to ensure that access to food retailers is not hindered for SNAP participants as a result of this rule. Comments and suggestions on the proposed rule are encouraged to help USDA determine when, where, and if any flexibility should be provided to prevent reductions in SNAP client food access.

Over the past several years, the USDA has been expanding where SNAP benefits can be used, including small grocery stores and farmers markets. More than 6,000 authorized farmers markets and direct marketing farmers now accept SNAP. Overall, more than 260,000 retailers nationwide are currently authorized to redeem SNAP benefits.

SNAP supplements the monthly food budgets of about 45 million low-income individuals. According to the USDA, nearly half of SNAP participants are children, 10 percent are elderly and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.

Comments on the proposed rule will be received for 60 days. For more information see the Federal Register Notice.