Federal Food Stamps Can Still Buy Pizza, as USDA Compromises on Healthy Food Mandate

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The USDA has compromised on its regulation for federal food stamps requiring the program carry a greater number of healthy food items. The final rule, filed Thursday, requires 84 healthy food items to be stocked, half of the proposed 168-item mandate.

It also does away with the provision barring foods containing multiple staple food items, such as pizza, from being counted as a staple food item, and makes a retailer ineligible to participate if at least 50 percent of gross sales come from prepared foods heated on site.

This new rule is still an improvement on the current minimum of stocking 12 healthy food items.

"These are very implementable changes that are long overdue. ... This is a way of nudging access (to healthy food) in the right direction," Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services explained to the Chicago Tribune.

Many of the compromises made on the final rule were done in an attempt to balance the goal of providing more healthy food to food stamp users with the concern that small stores may not be able to comply with the regulations. After the announcement of the more stringent rule in February, the National Association of Convenience Stores estimated that almost 92,000 convenience stores would not be able to comply.

Eighty percent of SNAP purchases are made at grocery stores, which already comply with the new regulations.

The rule will go into effect 30 days after it is published, likely to occur within the next few weeks. Retailers will then be given a year to comply with the new regulations.

Many have speculated that President-Elect Donald Trump will likely make modifications to SNAP once in office. In his 2011 book, “Time to Get Tough,” the Republican incumbent wrote that he suspected that many food stamp recipients were accepting assistance fraudulently, and Republicans have released a two-year review of the SNAP program that would tighten eligibility standards for individuals and families, Modern Farmer reports.

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