markets were operating, and 1,611 of these markets and individual farmers were authorized to accept SNAP benefits totaling $7,547,028. The number of markets and farmers increased by 263 percent over FY 2009, and redemptions increased by 49 percent over the previous 5 fiscal years (FNS, 2011a). Overall, 83 percent of all benefits in FY 2010 were redeemed by supermarkets or super stores, 6 percent by grocery stores, and 4 percent by convenience stores. Among food outlets where SNAP benefits are redeemed, however, only 17 percent are supermarkets or super stores, about 15 percent are grocery stores, 36 percent are convenience stores, 23 percent are combination stores, 2 percent are meal services, and 7 percent represent all other stores (FNS, 2012a).
As discussed in Chapter 1, to be authorized to accept SNAP benefits, a store must sell food for home preparation and offer for sale on a continuous basis a variety of food items that include meat, fish or poultry, breads or cereals, vegetables or fruits, and dairy products, with perishables (including frozen foods) in at least two of these groups. If a store does not meet this definition, it may be authorized if at least 50 percent of its total sales volume is in staple food sales.
USDA has been working to increase the number of farmers’ markets that accept SNAP benefits and recently announced grants to expand wireless technology. Currently, markets receive free EBT point-of-sale devices only when redemptions are $100 or more per month. The $4 million in grants is the result of funding provided through the 2012 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act.11 These grants will help markets that lack access to phone lines or electricity. It should be noted that the committee acknowledges the concerns of feeding programs for the elderly about their problems with accepting SNAP donations in the EBT environment.12 The difficulty of determining which outlets should be eligible to redeem benefits lies in the need to consider issues of access, pricing, quality, variety, and business integrity. This issue continues to attract attention by the program’s administrators, client advocates, the retail food associations, and Congress.
Providing nutrition education to SNAP participants through SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed) is not a program requirement. Nutrition education funding is available to states that opt to provide nutrition education to their SNAP participants. This component of the SNAP program has grown considerably
11Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, Public Law 112-55 (November 18, 2011).
12Personal communication, Enid Borden, Meals On Wheels, March 28, 2012.