WASHINGTON – This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center, a health-focused think tank, released its SNAP Task Force Recommendations, which includes several proposals that are highly concerning for convenience stores that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Here are four key areas of the Policy Center’s recommendations that would greatly affect convenience stores and their customers who receive SNAP benefits:
- Authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to collect and share store-level data on all products purchased with SNAP funds: Require convenience retailers to collect and share store-level SNAP food purchase data with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
- Strengthen SNAP retailer standards: USDA should implement new stocking rules that increase the availability of healthy foods at SNAP retailers. In addition, USDA should study the feasibility of including evidence-based product placement strategies and restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy products in SNAP retailer standards.
- Adopt modern technologies for state program administration (i.e. processing and interchange fees): Instead of states and the federal government paying processing fees, SNAP retailers would pay transaction processors directly in the same manner they pay for other debit and credit transactions.
- Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the list of items that can be purchased with SNAP benefits.
Anna Ready, NACS director of government relations of NACS, commented on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report, “Leading with Nutrition: Leveraging Federal Programs for Better Health,” noting that the recommendations are misguided, and would hurt families that rely on SNAP by reducing the value of their benefits and make it harder for them to find stores that accept SNAP.
Ready also noted that the report’s recommendation that SNAP retailers pay transaction fees to accept SNAP will drastically diminish the value of SNAP benefits. “SNAP payments can and should be modernized without turning them into a cash cow for MasterCard and Visa. Those companies would not improve SNAP payments. They would just extract huge profits as they do in the commercial space at the expense of SNAP customers,” she said.
The report also glosses over the rule implementing changes from the 2014 Farm Bill that requires convenience stores to stock additional foods for SNAP beneficiaries is still in process. NACS supported the 2014 Farm Bill changes to expand stocking requirements at SNAP authorized retail stores and is working with USDA on this.
With more than 117,000 convenience stores accepting SNAP benefits, “We hope that in future, the BPC Task Force would work with food retailers to learn the ins-and-outs of how food is sold to SNAP recipients,” Ready said. “Their presence in urban and rural environments along with their extended hours and ever-expanding food options are critical to the communities they serve. These small format retailers often provide the only access to nutritious food choices in these settings, particularly for those who shop during hours when traditional large format retailers, such as grocery stores, may be closed.”