Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Increasing Revenue and Food Security
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” is a program to help low-income people afford the food they need. The program can be a benefit not only to the low-income people who use it, but to the businesses who sell food in the community.
Rural grocery stores can increase sales if they accept SNAP benefits because low-income customers can spend more than they would be able to otherwise. If a store doesn’t accept SNAP, customers must go to a different store to spend their benefits, and the rural store loses revenue.
For Customers: To determine if you qualify for SNAP, here is an online eligibility tool and a page that outlines the eligibility requirements. If you qualify, the next step is to fill out an application. Each state has its own application form, and here is a list of states that have online applications. If your state does not allow online application, here is a map to find your local SNAP office.
If you qualify and are accepted, you will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This card looks different in every state and is meant to be swiped in a credit card machine. It can only be used to buy food, but it deducts benefits from your account just like a debit card. A store must apply to accept EBT cards.
For Retailers: To be eligible to accept SNAP benefits, a store must sell food for home preparation and consumption and either a) offer at least 3 different foods daily in each of the four staple food groups of breads & grains, dairy, fruits & vegetables, and meat, poultry and fish; OR b) at least 50% of your total sales must be from staple foods.
If you qualify as a retailer, there is a three-step application process that can be done online here. It involves setting up a USDA account, filling out an application, and sending in required documentation to your local FNS office.
If your community has a grocery store or another store that sells food, accepting SNAP benefits has the potential to increase sales for that business. Remember that in this tough economy, many young families, unemployed workers and senior citizens use SNAP to make sure they have the food they need.
If your community doesn’t have a food store, consider opening one! See our page on rural grocery stores for ideas. You could also approach an existing business such as a gas station or restaurant to find out if they would consider expanding their business to include more healthy food options meant for home consumption.
Perishable - foods that are fresh, refrigerated or frozen. Packaged or canned goods are not considered perishable.
Staple Food - a basic dietary item (e.g., bread, flour, fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, etc.). Snack or accessory foods, such as chips, soda, coffee, condiments, and spices, are not staple foods. In addition, you may not count ready to eat, prepared foods as staple foods.
Variety - is defined as different types of food. For example, your store has a variety of dairy items if you sell milk, yogurt and cheese on a daily basis. It would not have a variety of dairy items if you only sold three versions of milk (e.g., skim milk, evaporated milk, whole milk).
- Food & Nutrition Service Web site on SNAP
- Training guides for stores on accepting SNAP benefits
- Applications for stores
- CFRA's Rural Grocery Store page
- Posted on 8.3.2010
- Posted on 2.2.2011
- Posted on 2.3.2011
- Posted on 2.10.2011
- Posted on 2.17.2011