Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Summary And Compliance Guide For Truckstops and Travel Plazas

On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS” or “Agency”) published a final rule altering the eligibility requirements for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP” or “the program”). The final rule contained several substantial improvements over the proposed rule which, if it had been enacted as originally proposed, would have virtually eliminated the truckstop industry from SNAP.

Many convenience stores that are owned and operated by truckstop and travel plaza operators redeem SNAP benefits. These locations play an important role in the SNAP program, especially in areas where there are few other locations for financially challenged Americans to purchase food.

The final rule will make several changes to the regulations governing SNAP retailer eligibility, namely: to participate in SNAP, food retailers will be required to stock at least seven different “varieties” of food items in each of the four “staple food” categories and at least one perishable food item in three of the four staple food categories. Retailers will also be required to keep 3 units of every required item on shelf at some time in any given 21 day period.

Finally, if 50 percent or more of a store’s total gross sales are sales of items that are cooked or heated on site by the retailer before or after purchase, the retailer will be ineligible to participate in SNAP.

- A Note Regarding Compliance and Effective Dates - 
 
In May 2017, Congress passed and the President signed the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus spending bill, which contains a provision requiring the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to to rewrite the sections of the SNAP eligibility rule pertaining to the definition of "variety," i.e., whether stocking different types of the same underlying food product (ground turkey vs. sliced turkey) qualifies as stocking two items in a category or just one.  Congress specifically instructed USDA to rewrite the definition to provide greater flexibility and more options for retailers participating in SNAP.
 
This means that everything below pertaining to "variety" must be updated once USDA completes the rulemaking process to update the term "variety."  It is unclear how long the rulemaking process will take.  The other elements of the new rule, which are described in detail below, should remain the same.
 
Even though the non-variety requirements of the new rule are not changing, because USDA has to rewrite "variety," the new rule will be delayed until that occurs.  Therefore, NATSO members currently participating in SNAP, as well as those looking to obtain new SNAP licenses, will need to comply with the OLD SNAP regulations and stock THREE different varieties in the FOUR staple food categories until USDA updates the definition of variety.
 
This NATSO member-only memorandum and compliance guide is structured as follows:
 
Part I:    Quick Summary of the Final Rule
Part II:   Table Summarizing the Final Rule
Part III:  Guide to Assist Retailers with Compliance
Part: IV:  Conclusion 

For questions, please reach out to David Fialkov, NATSO VP, Government Affairs, Legislative and Regulatory Counsel at dfialkov@natso.com or (703) 739-8501.

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David Fialkov's photo

David Fialkov is the Vice President of Government Relations, as well as the Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, at NATSO. In this capacity, Mr. Fialkov direct's NATSO's legislative, regulatory, and legal strategy on a range of issues, including transportation, energy and fuels, labor, data security, and taxes. Mr. Fialkov also oversees NATSO's political engagement program, including individualized legal and political counsel to member companies. Prior to joining NATSO, Mr. Fialkov was the senior associate in the Government Affairs and Public Policy practice at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C. At Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov advised clients on legislative, regulatory, and political issues, as well as legal concerns. His primary clients included trade associations representing the motor fuel wholesale and retail industries, including the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Mr. Fialkov's focus was not only on the motor fuels business, but also the litany of other issues that retailers confront, including labor matters, foodservice issues, healthcare and employment issues, tax matters and data security. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. Fialkov graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. Summa cum laude with highest honors from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Allison and daughter Lilah. More
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