Stricture rules for food stamps and the stores that accept them could force smaller retailers to add more items that could be costly and unprofitable for them.
The Wall Street Journal reported
Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants stores that redeem food stamps to stock a wider variety of meats and vegetables for recipients and sell fewer hot meals, such as pizza.
The newspaper stated that the proposed new rules for the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, could hurt some 195,000 smaller stores across the country. It could force them to add up to 168 items to stay in the program, but many have limited shelf space and could possibly see increased spoilage of fresh food.
"Unlike corporate grocery stores, or big-box stores like Walmart that literally have acres of space under one roof, our stores are each around 2,400 square feet in total," Dirk Cooper, president of Noon's Food Stores, a chain in Missoula, Montana, told the USDA in a letter.
The proposed rules, first offered in February
, would require food stamp retailers to offer seven varieties of qualifying foods in four staple food groups for sale on a continuous basis, along with perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups.
The USDA statement explains that the staple foods groups are dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables. The proposal calls for retailers to stock at least six units within each variety could lead to a total of at least 168 required food items per store.
"USDA is committed to expanding access for SNAP participants to the types of foods that are important to a healthy diet," Kevin Concannon, the USDA under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services, said in February USDA statement.
"This proposed rule ensures that retailers who accept SNAP benefits offer a variety of products to support healthy choices for those participating in the program," he continued.
The Wall Street Journal wrote that the proposed new rules could find trouble in Congress, warning that if smaller stores drop out of the program, it could leave recipients to much fewer options while hurting the bottom line of small businesses.
"This is the food police," Ohio Republican U. S. Rep. Bob Gibbs told the Journal.
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