In January, the Federal Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) will begin implementing parts of the new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer regulations that were finalized last year. FNS recently released a one-page summary to help retailers prepare for these changes, and The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing (NACS) is offering a retailer compliance guide to its members.
Beginning Jan. 17, SNAP retailers will be required to have three varieties of food in each of the four “staple food” categories (dairy; meat, poultry or fish; bread or cereal; and vegetables or fruits) and to stock three units of each variety for a total of 36 staple food items.
Of the three varieties of food in each category, at least one item in two categories must be perishable, i.e. food that will spoil within two to three weeks. FNS also will implement its updated definition of “accessory food,” which includes potato chips, cookies, soda and other items. Items that are considered “accessory food” are, by definition, not staple foods and may not be counted toward a retailer’s stocking requirements.
While FNS will require three stocking units on shelves of each food variety, the agency recognizes that this requirement presents problems for small-format stores, like convenience stores, that have significant supply and store-space limitations.
Under the final rule, FNS permits a retailer to demonstrate compliance with the stocking unit requirements via receipts and other invoices that prove the necessary items were purchased up to 21 days before the date of an agency inspection.
In October, FNS began implementing the “hot foods” provision of the regulations. This provision states that retailers will be disqualified from the program if 50 percent or more of the store’s total gross retail sales (including fuel and tobacco sales) come from items that are cooked or heated on-site before or after purchase.
FNS considers “co-located” retailers—retailers that “include separate businesses that operate under one roof and share all three of the following commonalities: ownership, sale of similar foods and shared inventory” to be a single entity for eligibility purposes under this provision.
As part of the final regulations, SNAP retailers eventually will have to stock seven varieties of food in the four staple-food categories. However, Congress delayed this provision in May because lawmakers believed the agency’s definition of “variety” was unworkable for small-format stores.
Congress passed language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 that requires FNS to correct its definition of “variety” before the regulations can take full effect. NACS is waiting on the agency to propose its new definition of “variety,” which is anticipated in the first quarter of next year.