NATSO met with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Nov. 18 to discuss the Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) proposed regulation regarding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as "food stamps") retailer eligibility requirements. The proposed regulation, which is expected to be finalized in a revised form before the end of the year, would functionally prohibit the convenience stores located within travel plazas from redeeming SNAP benefits.
Specifically, the proposed rule would preclude any retailer from redeeming SNAP benefits if 15 percent or more of their total food sales -- including hot food sold within a convenience store or other restaurants located on the premises -- are from food that is cooked or heated on site. The rule also would require SNAP retailers to stock and offer for sale a larger quantity of "staple food" items. Furthermore, it would substantially narrow the definition of "staple food" item in a manner that may require NATSO members wishing to redeem SNAP benefits to offer for sale a number of items that they would otherwise not be inclined to stock. (NATSO members that do not wish to redeem SNAP benefits will be unaffected by this rulemaking.)
NATSO has prepared a complete summary of the proposed SNAP rule and how it will effect the truckstop and travel plaza industry.
At the meeting with White House officials, NATSO noted that many convenience stores operated by truckstop and travel plazas are located at the same site as quick-serve and/or sit-down restaurants, and the proposed regulation would foreclose these locations from participating (since they would invariably exceed the 15 percent of food sales cooked or heated on-site maximum).
NATSO further noted that the proposal would require SNAP retailers to stock and offer for sale a larger quantity of "staple food" items while substantially narrowing the definition of "staple food." This would require NATSO members wishing to redeem SNAP benefits to offer for sale a number of items that they would otherwise not be inclined to stock and that their customers are not inclined to buy.
The meeting last week culminated in a months-long advocacy push by NATSO to educate policymakers as to the shortcomings of USDA's proposal. On May 12, NATSO testified before the House Agriculture Committee outlining the rule's shortcomings to members of Congress. On May 23, NATSO submitted formal comments to USDA detailing the negative effect the proposal would have on NATSO members and -- more importantly -- SNAP beneficiaries that rely on NATSO members as a reliable source of food.
The rule is expected to be finalized before the end of the year. It will likely include changes to the proposal. NATSO will keep its members apprised of any further developments on this issue.
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