The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has begun implementing some of the eligibility requirements for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP provides more than 44 million Americans, including millions of children, with the resources to buy food and sets the requirements for the 258,632 retailers that accept SNAP benefits for food purchases.
On Oct. 16, the “hot foods” or restaurant provision, which ties retailer eligibility to accept SNAP benefits to the sale of heated foods, went into effect.
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), 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.
Furthermore, FNS will consider “co-located” retailers—those 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.
Furthermore, FNS will implement the stocking unit provisions found in the final rule starting Jan. 17, 2018.
Retailers will be required to have three units of three varieties of food in each of the four “staple food” categories (dairy; meat, poultry, or fish; bread or cereal; and vegetables or fruits) 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.
Along with the stocking unit requirements, FNS also will implement the 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 towards a retailer’s stocking requirements.
The remaining provisions in the final rule have been delayed due to the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which contained a provision NACS advocated for requiring FNS to rewrite the “variety” provisions of the updated SNAP retailer eligibility regulations.