Revised SNAP Rule

Low income families may soon get healthier options at more retailers with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a new rule to the Agriculture Act of 2014. The original guidelines called for retailers who wanted to participate in SNAP to offer a wider variety of healthy options to customers.

Currently SNAP retailers have to provide a minimum of twelve items from the four staple food groups of dairy, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish and grains. Perishable food items must come from at least two of the staple food groups in order for retailers to be in compliance.

“This proposed rule helps safeguard SNAP integrity,” says Alan Shannon of the USDA.

The new guidelines would require food retailers to sell at least seven different options from each of the four food groups. This would more than double the number of healthy options shops are required to offer and include all food retailers from gas stations and convenience stores to regular grocery stores and super stores like Walmart.

Under the new rule, stores would need a variety of 28 items to comply – three of the items coming from perishable foods.

Chicago research consultant Mari Gallagher, who popularized the term, “Food Desert” thinks even more needs to be done. She believes Congress needs to step up and invest funds in making retailers comply with federal regulations.

“When we did work in Ohio, I saw a laundry mat that was SNAP-authorized –  it had like a potato chip rack and some candy bars and they had like a little counter and they would sell a few things and they were SNAP-authorized,” remarks Gallagher.

The USDA hopes this new rule will help ferret out stores that are skirting around the rule.

Gallagher has conducted studies throughout the Midwest that show a clear cause and effect between Food Deserts and poor health. Parts of Michiana have been classified as “Food Deserts,” including South Bend’s West Side and parts of Benton Harbor.

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