ALEXANDRIA, Va.—This spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a revised application for retail stores seeking to attain or renew their licenses for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The SNAP application was updated following concerns raised by members of the convenience store industry who believed that the 2018 application contained problematic questions that went beyond vetting a retailer’s eligibility and sought sensitive sales information.
Convenience stores play a critical role in SNAP by providing valuable access to food for SNAP families, especially those who live in rural or highly urban areas, or those who have to shop during nontraditional hours. For convenience stores in SNAP, they must meet the program’s eligibility criteria by stocking a certain number and type of staple foods. Additionally, retailers must not cross the “hot foods threshold,” which states that retailers will be disqualified from participating in SNAP if 50% or more of the store’s gross sales come from foods heated or cooked on site.
The purpose of the retailer application is to confirm that a retail store meets the eligibility requirements. As such, NACS believes it is fair and necessary for the agency to seek data related to the number of staple foods a retailer stocks and to seek the percentage of a retailer’s hot foods sales. However, any information sought beyond that eligibility criteria is inappropriate and administratively burdensome for retailers to supply to the agency.
In January 2018, USDA published a new retailer application in response to updates the agency had made to retailer SNAP eligibility requirements. However, the 2018 application went beyond simply ensuring that retailers met the stocking requirements and asked for specific itemized sales amounts for certain categories such as alcohol, tobacco and fuel. NACS feared that seeking such sensitive information would have resulted in retailers leaving the program, either because the retailer would fail to fully complete the application or because the agency would potentially target or disqualify a store based on the data shared. NACS and several of its retail board members met with USDA to raise these concerns last year. In response to that meeting, USDA proposed changes to the application and asked for comments on the proposal, which NACS submitted.
This spring USDA published a revised application for retailers, which reflects the majority of changes the convenience store industry proposed. NACS commends the agency on revising the application. For convenience store retailers, the revised application should present less of an administrative challenge and will protect stores’ sensitive sales data.