• Rewrite on Definition of Variety Would Bring Flexibility to SNAP Rules on Retailer Eligibility

  • Rewrite on Definition of Variety Would Bring Flexibility to SNAP Rules on Retailer Eligibility

    Today, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released its proposed definition of "variety" for the retailer eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    Prior to today’s proposal, under the agency’s definition a retailer would not have been allowed to count two items from the same species (for example, you couldn’t count both bacon and sliced ham as separate varieties; they would both count as one pork item). In May 2017 and again in 2018, Congress passed legislation directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to correct its definition of “variety” and delayed the stocking requirements from taking effect until the agency proposed a new definition. In January 2018, USDA began enforcing that retailers must have three units of three varieties of food in the four staple food categories.

    Anna Ready, director of government relations at NACS issued the following statement in response to the proposed definition:

    "We are pleased to see that FNS heeded the calls of Congress to rewrite their definition of "variety" in a way that will provide more flexibility for the more than 119,000 convenience stores in the program who provide needed access to food in areas where there is not a large store nearby or during non-traditional hours when most of those stores are closed."

    "Convenience stores and other neighborhood stores face storage and size constraints, as well as delivery limitations, which would have made FNS’s original definition of variety almost impossible to comply with even for the most sophisticated retail operations. As Congress intended, the proposed definition of “variety” will provide retailers with greater flexibility to reach eligibility requirements without making retailers stock items that simply do not sell in their stores or that they do not have the space or capacity to sell.

    "We appreciate the bipartisan efforts of members of Congress who directed FNS to rewrite their definition of "variety" in way that matched the intent of Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill to preserve the role of the small format retailer and increase foods stocked inside the store.
    "NACS plans to file comments on the proposal and work with FNS to ensure the final rule provides the greatest possible flexibility for the Program’s retail partners.

    "As proud and committed partners in SNAP, the convenience store industry looks forward to continuing to work with Congress, FNS, and the food community to be responsible and innovative participants in meeting the nutritional needs of American families."
    For more information, contact Anna Ready at aready@convenience.org.


    NACS advances the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 153,000 stores selling fuel, food and merchandise, serves more than 165 million customers daily—half of the U.S. population—and has sales that are 11% of total U.S. retail and foodservice sales. NACS has 1,900 retailer and 1,800 supplier members from more than 50 countries.