NATSO on June 4 submitted comments on the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service’s proposed rule providing regulatory flexibility for retailers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also formerly known as Food Stamps.
NATSO supports the proposal, which would give travel center operators the requisite flexibility to meet the program’s stocking requirements and enable travel centers and truckstops to continue participating in the program.
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 rural areas where there are few other locations for financially challenged Americans to purchase food.
Furthermore, travel centers tend to be open 24 hours a day, which is crucial for the many SNAP recipients with irregular work schedules. If it were not for these businesses, many economically disadvantaged Americans would be forced to travel long distances to purchase SNAP eligible products.
In its comments, NATSO said that it supports the proposal and appreciates flexibility in the “meat, poultry or fish” and “dairy” categories. NATSO also supports proposed changes in the “breads or cereals” category.
Rules finalized in 2016 required SNAP-authorized retailers to stock seven different varieties of food in four staple food groups. Under those rules, SNAP retailers would be required to stock seven kinds of qualifying foods in four staple food groups: dairy products; fruits and vegetables; breads and cereals; and meats, poultry and fish.
Congress prevented the USDA from implementing the new stocking rules until the agency could modify its definition of what foods qualified as an appropriate variety.
While the more rigid 2016 rule would have treated different items belonging to the same species as one variety of item for purposes of satisfying the seven-variety staple food threshold (e.g., salami and ham are “pork”), the Proposed Rule, conversely, would allow retailers to count both a perishable item and a shelf-stable item for a distinct species in the “meat, poultry, or fish” category.
The ability to count a shelf-stable variety, like canned chicken, in addition to a perishable variety, like deli chicken slices, makes it easier to meet the SNAP requirements, while also selling products that consumers want to purchase.
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