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SNAP Retailer Rule Compliance Deadlines Approaching Fast

USDA will begin implementing some eligibility requirements for SNAP retailers beginning Monday, October 16.
October 13, 2017

​WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will begin implementing some of the eligibility requirements for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beginning on Monday, October 16, 2017. Those requirements were promulgated in the final rule, “Enhancing Retailer Standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” published on December 15, 2016.

SNAP provides more than 44 million Americans, including millions of children, with the resources to buy food and sets the requirements for the 258,632 retailers that accept SNAP benefits for food purchases. Small format stores, including convenience stores, provide critical access to food for many SNAP beneficiaries who may live long distances from a large food retailer or may need to shop for food during non-traditional hours when other food retailers are closed.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, the “hot foods” or restaurant provision, which ties retailer eligibility to accept SNAP benefits to the sale of heated foods, will go into effect. Retailers will be disqualified from the program if 50% or more of the store’s total gross retail sales (including fuel and tobacco sales) come from items that are cooked or heated on site before or after purchase. Furthermore, FNS will consider “co-located” retailers—retailers that “include separate businesses that operate under one roof and share all three of the following commonalities: ownership, sale of similar foods, and shared inventory” to be a single entity for eligibility purposes under this provision.

Furthermore, FNS will implement the stocking unit provisions found in the final rule starting January 17, 2018. Retailers will be required to have three units of three varieties of food in each of the four “staple food” categories (dairy; meat, poultry, or fish; bread or cereal; and vegetables or fruits) for a total of 36 staple food items. Of the 3 varieties of food in each category, at least one item in two categories must be perishable, i.e. food that will spoil within 2-3 weeks. Along with the stocking unit requirements, FNS will also implement the updated definition of “accessory food,” which includes potato chips, cookies, soda, and other items. Items that are considered “accessory food” are, by definition, not staple foods and may not be counted towards a retailer’s stocking requirements.

The remaining provisions in the final rule have been delayed due to the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, which contained a provision NACS advocated for requiring FNS to rewrite the “variety” provisions of the updated SNAP retailer eligibility regulations.

NACS members may access the retailer compliance guide prepared by NACS counsel here.

If NACS members have questions about the final rule, they are encouraged to contact Anna Ready, director of government relations, ready@convenience.org.