Freeloaders. Lazy. Welfare Babies. All words to describe families that rely on food stamps for their basic nutritional needs. Constantly berated by media outlets, even though the truth is the vast majority of households currently on welfare want nothing more than to be self-sufficient without having to rely on social programs, these struggling families may have just reclaimed a bit of real estate in the growing gap between reliance and respect.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled new rules on Feb. 16 that would force retailers who accept food stamps to stock a wider variety of healthy foods or face the loss of business as consumers shop elsewhere.
The proposed rules are designed to ensure that the more than 46 million Americans who use food stamps have better access to healthy foods, although they don’t dictate what people can buy or eat. A person using food stamp dollars could still purchase as much junk food as they wanted, but they would have better opportunities to purchase fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats and bread.
“USDA is committed to expanding access for SNAP participants to the types of foods that are important to a healthy diet,” Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in a statement. “This proposed rule ensures that retailers who accept SNAP benefits offer a variety of products to support healthy choices for those participating in the program.”
Back in 2014, Congress required the Agriculture Department to develop regulations to make sure stores that accept food stamp dollars, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, stock a wider array of healthy food choices.
So, while current rules state SNAP retailers must stock at least three varieties of foods in each of the four food groups: fruits and vegetables, dairy, breads and cereals, and meats, poultry and fish, the new rules would require the retailers to stock seven varieties in each food group, and at least three of the food groups would have to include perishable items.
In all, the rules would require stores to stock at least 168 items the USDA considers healthy while also requiring retailers have enough in stock of each item so the foods would be continuously available.
The convenience store industry has argued that the rules could mean fewer convenience stores qualify to be SNAP retailers and convenience stores are often the only stores that serve certain neighborhoods and at certain times, like overnight. Concannon said the department would try to ensure the rules don’t affect SNAP recipients’ access to food retailers, and the department may consider waiving the proposed requirements in some areas.
The rules come as a key House Republican is pushing for drug tests for food stamp recipients and new cuts to the program. If only congressmen and women were regularly drug tested and consistent cuts were being made to their salaries.
I’d like to see any of these politicians survive on a thousand bucks a month, including food stamps.