THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is stick- ing its fingers into the retail world again. This time it could have major consequences—good and bad— for the supermarket industry,
mostly depending on the size of the store and
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and
the Obama Administration, which seems to
spend way too much
time looking for ways
to get consumers to
eat healthier, wants
to overhaul the $74
Program (SNAP), the
basis for food stamps
across the country.
According to an article in The Wall Street
Journal published in
late June, the plan is to push for stricter rules
for stores that accept food stamps.
The new rules would require stores that
redeem food stamps to stock a wider variety
of meats and vegetables and sell fewer hot
meals, including pizza and other tasty treats
that are high in sugar, salt, fats or other not-
good-for-you-stuff, the Journal says. Larger
supermarkets, say those of at least 20,000
square feet, fit the bill and will reap the big
financial benefits of these new guidelines.
However, smaller food stores could be
devastated by these rules. Officials at these
stores, not to mention convenience stores
and drugstores, argue that they simply do not
have enough space to meet the new federal
guidelines and would be forced out of the
food stamp program.
Lets talk numbers here. Nearly 50 million
people receive SNAP funding, at an average
of more than $125 a month. That money, in
total, goes to retailers, where the consumers use the food stamps to purchase virtually anything they want. The problem is that
SNAP is now offered at about 265,000 stores
and many of those stores do not sell the nutritional items that the government says food
stamps should be used for.
The Journal article, in fact, talked about
how more and more liquor stores are accept-
ing food stamps. You do not need to spend
a considerable amount of time in liquor
stores to discern the fact that there are few
products with high nutritional value. Also, a
convenience store operator, who said his cus-
tomers purchased snacks and beverages with
food stamps at his store, told the paper that
he added coolers for fresh meat to no avail.
The government has caught on to the
game. Over the last five years, the percentage
of food stamps redeemed at convenience
stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and even gas
stations, has almost doubled to 11. 6 percent
of SNAP funds, the Journal says. And, no one
is being fooled by the fact that many of these
sales are being made on products that simply
do not make the grade.
Of course, this is far from a done deal.
Different retail groups, particularly the conve-
nience store industry, are lobbying their favor-
ite congressmen to get them to intervene
and, at a minimum, to add enough amend-
ments to block most of the new guidelines.
The supermarket industry has to get on the
horn too. More food stamps being redeemed
at grocery stores is an extremely enticing
idea. And, it is important that the grocery
industry flex its muscles on this as well, com-
ing up with suggestions that will protect all
chains, no matter what size, while helping
the government develop guidelines that will
encourage more healthy eating.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
A SNAP DECISION
Grocers need to help develop guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that will encourage
healthy eating while protecting their business.
By Seth Mendelson
Seth Mendelson is publisher
and editorial director of Grocery