The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is seeing a major overhaul regarding what is allowed to be bought as nutritious meals with food stamps, according to NPR.
During the Obama administration, retailers that accepted SNAP benefits were required to stock a minimum amount of fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, and grain options. This requirement at face value seemed like a great idea because it would force retailers to stock healthy meal options to food stamp recipients who shopped at their stores.
What the Obama administration did not seem to realize at the time of urging such a requirement was that retailers that were forced to sell such items were slowly being pushed out of business because their customers were not buying the required items shelved. Items such as processed cheese and beef jerky, for example, were hot selling items that were not SNAP purchasable items, and this caused many local convenience stores to struggle.
The Trump administration realized that many businesses were being forced to close due to their not meeting their customers’ interests.
Rather than having the ability to provide options that customers were interested in purchasing, many retailers were stocking foods that were required by the Obama administration if they were interested in receiving SNAP as payment. This placed a major strain on retailers because the healthy options that they offered were not being purchased, and instead, were spoiling on the shelves. Items like almond milk were acceptable healthy options for retailers to sell, but many SNAP customers were simply not interested in those products.
“Affordability is a huge aspect, and I can only stay in business if I sell items that people want to buy,” stated Robert Forsyth, owner of a chain of convenience stores across the midwestern states. “It doesn’t do me any good to sell goat cheese because my customers don’t want it,” Forsyth continued. This was the problem that many retailers were facing until the Trump administration proposed a change that would allow retailers to stock dried meats and shelf-stable, processed cheese products to allow retailers to meet their meat and dairy requirements.
Although retailers were happy with the proposed change, many critics felt that this would offset the need by retailers to offer as much fresh meat and dairy products. “SNAP benefits are intended to provide people with foods they can cook at home, and it would be helpful if convenience stores made it possible for families to shop for foods they can prepare into meals,” stated Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is a consumer advocacy group.
Wootan is not the only person to have fears of the new proposal to expand what is acceptable as a “nutritious item” in convenience stores. Many critics of the proposal believe that the new rule will eliminate the interest of retailers to order healthy foods to sell in their stores, making healthy options for SNAP customers very limited.
It was a fight against obesity that led the Obama administration to create strict rules on what could be sold to SNAP recipients. However, the strict rule not only strained businesses, but it also served as a means in which to control what SNAP recipients purchased when they used their benefits.
Seeing this problem, the Trump administration decided to expand options for retailers rather than limit them. This has allowed many retailers not only to sell items that SNAP recipients want but also save money by not purchasing items that are merely spoiling on the shelves due to none purchase from customers.
The proposed change is one that addresses many issues, with one being how the Obama era continued to create rules that allowed the government to control businesses and the people who rely on those businesses. Many convenience stores in rural areas are the only stores that people have, considering the local grocery stores are located miles away.
Potential closings that many convenience stores were facing under the Obama era are now able to stay in business, which is imperative given the fact that many people rely on these stores to cater to their basic needs. “You must meet SNAP recipients where they are,” said Forsyth, who rejected the idea of the Obama administration placing limits on retailers. “I think the restrictions were elitist attitudes and I’m glad for the proposed change by the Trump administration,” he continued.
The proposed change to alleviate the strict rules on what foods can be sold to SNAP recipients from retailers is one that is being embraced by both retailers and SNAP recipients alike. Having the ability to sell what customers want will save many businesses and having the freedom to purchase what they want will help to empower those who receive SNAP benefits.