WASHINGTON—This week, the House Agriculture Committee heard how agriculture, food banks and food retail representatives are addressing food insecurity amid the challenges brought forth throughout the pandemic within their communities. Max McBrayer, CEO of RaceTrac, served as the convenience retail industry’s voice at the hearing.
“Our industry’s unique format and business model has been, and should continue to be, a meaningful asset in the federal government’s effort to combat food insecurity in the United States,” McBrayer said, adding that all 549 RaceTrac stores and 200 franchise-brand RaceWay stores redeem Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) purchases.
Nationwide, enrollments in SNAP increased from 36.8 million people in February 2020 to 43 million by September. In the past year, McBrayer shared that the percent of SNAP transactions at stores doubled, and there was a 65% increase in EBT dollars used at RaceTrac stores and a 102% increase at RaceWay stores.
“No American should go hungry. We hope to remain active partners in SNAP in order to provide essential food access to the thousands of people in our communities who have come to rely on us,” he said.
RaceTrac has been participating in SNAP for a decade. Today, RaceTrac’s stores process about 3 million EBT transactions per year, and throughout the Southeast, stores serve as convenient places for SNAP beneficiaries to access food.
“Not only are our stores often the only easily accessible retail food store located in a particular area, they are consistently open longer than other large-format food retailers and thus provide extended hours during which customers can shop for food,” said McBrayer.
RaceTrac store employees observed a notable increase in EBT purchases. McBrayer shared anecdotes from frontline employees who say that many low-income working households shop at RaceTrac for affordable breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack items.
“They have also served guests who stop in quickly to make an EBT purchase and then dash out to work,” he said, adding that EBT accounted for around 0.7% to 1.0% of total transactions prior to the pandemic. Since March 2020, that percentage nearly doubled to 1.2%-1.6% of total transactions. “It is clear to all of us at RaceTrac that in 2020 many of our guests have been struggling to make ends meet and are experiencing food insecurity. Congress’s 15% increase of SNAP benefits has been critical to ensuring that our most economically vulnerable citizens have access to the food they need,” he said.
“Small-format stores like ours serve an important role in SNAP. We provide convenient locations for SNAP beneficiaries to access affordable food at any time they wish to, day or night,” said McBrayer, adding, “I hope we can continue to work together to fulfill the program’s goal to alleviate hunger and food insecurity across the country.”
Designated as essential businesses, RaceTrac and convenience stores throughout the United States remained open to serve their customers throughout the pandemics. However, despite best efforts to provide fresh, competitively priced food products, McBrayer noted that COVID-19 imposed significant challenges.
“In addition to increased health and safety protocols that were layered on top of existing food safety protocols, we had to contend with sporadic supply disruptions and food shortages,” he said, adding that stores were able to overcome supply disruptions and work with suppliers to meet the needs of consumers, “who have come to rely on our stores as an essential component to their monthly food shopping routine,” he said.
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