Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Last Updated: May 11, 2017

The Issue
The convenience and fuel retailing industry plays a vital role in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), particularly for financially challenged Americans who live in rural or urban environments. There are more than 117,000 convenience stores that participate in the program. To participate in SNAP, convenience stores must meet so-called “depth of stock” requirements that specify the amount and types of foods they must make available for customers. In 2014, a comprehensive Farm Bill was passed and signed into law that imposes some additional obligations on SNAP retailers. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the agency that oversees SNAP, finalized a rule in December 2016, which enacted some of the 2014 Farm Bill’s provisions and other requirements for retailers.

Retail Impact
The Farm Bill included two changes to retailer SNAP eligibility requirements. The first would require SNAP retailers to implement point-of-sale technology systems that will not redeem SNAP benefits for the purchase of ineligible items, and will prevent cashiers from manually overriding this prohibition. A majority of convenience stores already have such systems in place. For those that do not, they will eventually need to upgrade their systems, although this provision will not become effective until the U.S. Department of Agriculture issues regulations implementing it at some point in the future.

Second, SNAP retailers are required to stock at least seven different varieties of items in each of the four “staple food” categories. This is an increase from the three items that were required prior to the bill’s passage. Retailers must also stock at least one “perishable” food item in at least three of the four staple food categories. Previously, retailers were required to have a perishable food item in only two of the staple food categories.Retailers do not need to come into compliance with the new requirements until FNS rewrites their definition of “variety” of staple food.

NACS Position
It is critical that Congress and the Trump Administration understand the important role convenience stores have regarding SNAP. Convenience stores represent 45% of all retail outlets authorized to accept SNAP benefits—they are intensely local businesses that serve as a gathering place and source of community pride and offer an ever-growing range of products and services.
Many financially challenged Americans rely on convenience stores to redeem their SNAP benefits, especially in both urban and rural areas where they do not have access to traditional grocery stores or because they shop during hours when larger format food stores may be closed. The local convenience store is their only outlet to redeem this benefit. Prohibiting convenience stores from accepting SNAP benefits will negatively affect not only retailers but their customers and communities.

For an overview of the final rule, please click here. For a more in depth compliance guide for NACS members, please visit the Government Relations Resource page.