NACS Seeks Hot Food Waivers for SNAP

The letter to Congress requests flexibility to allow retailers to better serve customers during the pandemic.

April 08, 2020

WASHINGTON—NACS, along with four other associations, sent a letter to Congress requesting convenience stores be granted hot food waivers for SNAP recipients during the pandemic. The letter asked for “additional flexibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to better allow us to serve our customers in need.”

Currently, SNAP households cannot use their benefits for hot foods. The letter points out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has the ability to provide a SNAP waiver for hot food purchases during natural disasters, but since the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared a national emergency rather than a disaster, the agency doesn’t have the same authority to enact a waiver.

“Our customers need the flexibility to purchase hot foods for carryout with SNAP,” the letter states. Due to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our members have seen store shelves go empty for periods of time. While overall there is no shortage of foods, the staples that many customers rely on are often unavailable when they visit their local store. These customers, particularly those trying to follow state and local guidance to stay at home unless purchasing essential items, need the flexibility to purchase other foods—such as hot prepared foods—that may be available to them when they need them,” the letter stated.

Congressional leaders have stated that they will pass a fourth stimulus package in the coming weeks. Though, drafting of the legislation has not officially begun and members of Congress are not scheduled to return to Washington until April 20. The associations have requested that Congressional leadership include hot foods waivers for SNAP households in their next legislative package.“Many of these families need the flexibility of providing hot prepared foods to keep their families healthy and fed during a very trying time,” the letter concluded. Signers in addition to NACS include the National Restaurant Association; the National Retail Federation; NATSO, Representing America’s Travel Plazas and Truckstops; and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America.