Most Small Food Stores in Low-Income Chicago Communities Wouldn’t Meet Proposed Stocking Requirements for SNAP-Authorized Retailers

Most Small Food Stores in Low-Income Chicago Communities Wouldn’t Meet Proposed Stocking Requirements for SNAP-Authorized Retailers

The lack of grocery stores offering affordable, healthy foods in low-income communities throughout the US is an ongoing social justice issue. Existing stores, many of which accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Illinois Link) benefits, carry few staple food items such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and bread.

To address the scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables in these stores, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed modifications to the stocking requirements for food stores participating in the SNAP program. These proposed changes to the SNAP-authorized retailer requirements were announced in January 2016.

Two key changes are outlined in the proposed rule:

  • Stores must now have seven, rather than three, varieties of all four of the USDA staple food categories (i.e. fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; bread and cereal; and dairy).
  • Stores must now carry a perishable variety in three staple food categories rather than two staple food categories.

A “variety” is defined as a specific food or beverage item. For example, apples, bananas, and oranges are considered different varieties in the fruit & vegetable category. Different types of apples (e.g., Red Delicious and Granny Smith) are not considered different varieties.

In August 2016, Illinois PRC researchers, led by Dr. Lisa M. Powell, evaluated the extent that small food stores in three of Chicago’s low-income communities were meeting the two key changes listed above. Data were collected from 113 small food stores (30 small grocery stores & 83 limited-service stores) in the Austin, North Lawndale, and Englewood communities.

Findings from the evaluation include the following:

  • About 77% of small food stores were NOT meeting the proposed changes to the SNAP-authorized retailer requirements.
  • A perishable variety of fruit and vegetables was offered by 97% of small grocery stores and 59% of limited-service stores.
  • Only 33% of small grocery stores and 19% of limited-service stores offered at least seven eligible varieties in the dairy category.

Many small food stores in these Chicago communities would need to expand their offerings to meet the proposed changes. Final changes to the SNAP-authorized retailer requirements were published in December 2016.

The Illinois PRC is leading a multi-site research project to evaluate the extent to which food stores across the US are meeting the final rule. Results from the multi-site project are forthcoming.

The Illinois PRC brief on proposed changes to the SNAP-authorized retailer requirements is available here.

About the Banner Image. Photo captured by FancyCrave, utilized by the Illinois PRC via Unsplash.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Dr. Chelsea R. Singleton has been a post-doctoral research fellow with the Illinois Prevention Research Center since 2015. Her research examines the influence food policy and food environment have on dietary intake and chronic disease risk. Her research is supported by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute.