USDA proposes increasing food stamp access to healthy food

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP/AP) – Retailers that accept food stamps may have to start stocking a wider variety of healthy foods or face the loss of business.

Jennifer Stratton, of Chicopee said, “I think it’s an excellent idea. Healthy foods are expensive and if you know we had money in order to buy healthier foods, we would be living healthier.”

The new rules were proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday. The USDA says it is designed to ensure people who use food stamps on the Supplemental Nutrition Food Program or SNAP have better access to healthy foods.

The rules would require stores to carry 168 items that the Agriculture Department considers healthy.

A person using food stamp dollars could still buy as much junk food as they wanted, but they would have more options in the store to buy fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and bread.

Manager of the Corner Store in Chicopee, James Patel says the proposal is not realistic. “It sounds like this looks good, but for a small store they can’t afford to buy that kind of stuff and it’s pretty expensive too so you know if we don’t sell it we have to stress. So we would be losing the money.”

The convenience store industry says it could affect access because some smaller stores are the only ones that serve certain neighborhoods 24/7. The USDA said the requirement may be waived in some areas.

Last year, Congress required the Agriculture Department to develop these regulations.

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