Some Store Officials Say They May Have Problems Stocking Better Food
by Shamane Mills
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing new rules to increase access to healthy food for those using food stamps, but convenience store officials said the move may result in fewer locations participating in the program.
The proposal requires retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to stock a wider variety of healthy food. USDA officials said the majority of people using SNAP benefits go to a supermarket or big-box store, but many can’t get to traditional grocery stores.
Amber Canto, coordinator of the Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program, said the effort aims to allow greater access to healthy food choices.
“Healthy food choices may be limited for households residing in lower-income communities, communities of color or rural areas, and so limited access to stores that carry healthy foods can actually contribute to — at least in some part — disparities we see in diet and health,” said Canto.
However, the National Association of Convenience Stores oppose the stricter regulations under consideration. They would require retailers to stock three different varieties in basic food in four categories: fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry or fish; bread or cereal; and dairy.
Anna Ready, of the association, also claims other proposed changes go beyond what’s called for in the 2014 Farm Bill. For instance, macaroni and cheese or cold pizza wouldn’t be counted as a staple food because both have multiple ingredients. So retailers could no longer count mac and cheese in the breads and cereals category.
Canto said the USDA changes are designed to encourage people to buy healthier food. Research hasn’t determined whether availability matters.
“Whether that’s actually consumed or not is another body of literature and we’ve got some mixed results on that end. But growing evidence that seems to suggest that is positively influencing in that regard,” Canto said.
The proposal doesn’t further limit how SNAP benefits can be used; they could still be used to purchase junk food.
Editor’s note: The original headline to this story mischaracterized the intention behind the USDA changes. It has been updated.
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