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The federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as “food stamps,” helps families afford fresh, healthy foods and ingredients to prepare meals at home. Money can be used to buy foods like bread, dairy, meat, fish, poultry, snacks, soft drinks, and many other items.
See: The 15 best things to buy with SNAP at Costco Find: 5 budget stores that accept SNAP
SNAP EBT cards are accepted at many locations across the country, including gas stations, grocery stores, and even some online grocers. But not all grocery stores accept SNAP. The federal government does not require private businesses to accept payment, in the same way that it does not require stores to accept credit or debit cards.
However, it may be in a store’s interest to accept SNAP EBT. A recent study by market research firm IRI found that SNAP purchases account for 12% of food and beverage sales, both online and in-store. During the pandemic, SNAP shoppers generated 19% of dollar growth for retailers that accepted EBT payment, while other shoppers generated just 1% of growth, CNBC reported.
So why don’t all grocery stores accept SNAP?
First, the store must apply for the program and be authorized by the USDA to participate. They must also meet one of two criteria, reports TheGroceryStoreGuy.com – they must either have at least three units of three different varieties for each staple food category. Thus, a small store that only carries, for example, one variety of cereals and one type of bread, would not qualify.
Otherwise, more than 50% of their total gross retail sales must come from staple foods.
Although most grocery stores qualify under the first criterion, it might be difficult for a small store to meet the requirements. First, they must carry at least three varieties of food in four categories:
- Bread or cereal
- Meat, poultry or fish
- Dairy products
- Vegetables or fruits
In addition, these varieties must include three units of a perishable food choice in two categories. Perishable foods would include anything that requires freezing or refrigeration. Thus, if a store only sells canned vegetables, with no fresh fruits or vegetables, it would not qualify.
In some rural areas where low-income families have limited access to food, the government may relax these requirements and allow a retailer to accept SNAP EBT. This way, they can ensure that SNAP beneficiaries in that area have access to the food they need through the program.
Stores that do not accept SNAP EBT for payment do not meet the criteria or do not wish to go through the approval process. The license to accept EBT must then be renewed every five years and requires a visit by a government official to verify qualification.
If a store feels that it will not derive meaningful revenue from SNAP EBT customers, perhaps because it is located in a high-income neighborhood, it may not bother going through the application process. . However, with so many grocery stores and online retailers accepting SNAP, it shouldn’t be hard to find one that does.