Congress Passes Legislation to Rewrite SNAP Eligibility Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal lawmakers have directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to rewrite Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer eligibility regulations to help retailers.

Specifically, Congress wants FNS to rework its definition of "variety" in the SNAP retailer eligibility regulations. The directive is part of a provision in the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that lawmakers passed last week, according to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

NACS explained the definition adjustment will give retailers who participate in the program more options for which foods can count toward staple food stocking requirements. The provision also states that until FNS rewrites their definition, retailers will have to comply with the old SNAP requirements, which require retailers to stock three varieties of food in the four staple food categories.

To participate in SNAP, convenience stores must stock seven varieties of foods in the four staple food categories: 

  • Meat, poultry or fish; 
  • Dairy; 
  • Breads or cereals; and 
  • Fruits or vegetables. 

In December, FNS published the final SNAP retailer standards regulation, and although it addressed many of NACS's concerns with the proposed rule, it failed to address the definition of "variety," according to the association.

The new rules were slated to go into effect for retailers applying for new SNAP licenses on May 17 and for current SNAP retailers on Jan. 17, 2018.

According to NACS, the final regulation's definition of "variety" makes it difficult for retailers to stock popular widely consumed products in order to meet their SNAP requirements. For example, a retailer who stocks bacon and ham could only count one of those items toward his stocking requirements, because retailers can only count one meat per animal. 

"Congress continues to recognize the vital role convenience stores play in SNAP by providing access to food for millions of Americans. We applaud the passage of the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and the provision that directs FNS to redefine 'variety' in a way that is workable for small format retailers," said Anna Ready, director of government relations at NACS.

The federal SNAP provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families. 

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