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USDA announces final rule on enhanced retailer standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced final changes to increase access to healthy food choices for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The provisions in this rule require SNAP authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options.

“This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy staple foods available for purchase at participating stores, while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural and urban areas,” said Vilsack. “We received many helpful comments on the proposed rule and have modified the final rule in important ways to ensure that these dual goals are met. I am confident that this rule will ensure the retailers that participate in SNAP offer a variety of healthy foods for purchase and that SNAP recipients will continue to have access to the stores they need to be able to purchase food.”

The final rule provides long overdue updates to SNAP retailer eligibility criteria. Previously, a retailer could be authorized to participate in the program with a minimum inventory of 12 items. Now, the number of required food items is expanded to a minimum of 84. These changes are in keeping with the primary purpose of the program.

“United Fresh Produce Association commends the USDA on its revised final rule to enhance retailer standards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to increase healthier options for SNAP participants,” Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association said in a written statement. “The new retail standards will increase the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables available to SNAP customers while being sensitive to the concerns of convenience stores and other small food retail businesses. The rule ensures that SNAP retailers offer seven varieties of fruits and vegetables, with three units of each variety, for a total of 21. We believe that this is a win-win for SNAP families and retail stores.”