Improving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Retailer Standards

Committed to improving the access of low-income Americans’ to nutritious foods, the USDA continues to support healthy lifestyle choices made by SNAP participants.

Even though the implementation of these new standards have been halted, stores who currently accept SNAP benefits as payments, and even those stores planning to apply to accept the benefits as payments, should be ready to make these changes.

Stores are expected to follow these new stocking requirements:

What are the four staple food categories?

To take part in SNAP, the stores must meet either Criterion A or Criterion B. The requirement that stores should stock 84 food items affect the stores authorized under Criterion A.

What are staple foods? Generally, it is recognized as basic food items which make up a notable part of an individual’s diet. Also usually prepared and consumed at home as a major part of a meal. Examples include milk, tomatoes, rice, or ground beef.

Variety means various kinds of products or goods for each of the four staple food categories. It is usually defined by the kind of product or main ingredient. Note that different brands, flavors, formats, or types of the same product are not counted as different varieties.

Which are accessory food items? Desserts and snacks, like ice cream and potato chips, along with seasonings, spices, most beverages, and other food items which supplement or complement meals are considered accessory food items. While these can be bought with SNAP benefits, it does not count as one of the required 84 items.

Stocking unit is a bag, a can, or whatever standard package a product is normally sold in.


In general, old SNAP rules prohibit restaurants to accept SNAP benefits as payment. Buying hot food with SNAP benefits is not allowed as well. However, some restaurants have received authorization. How? By selling the food cold and then offering to heat or cook it on-site for the customers. However, if more than 50% of the restaurant's total sales come from prepared foods heated or cooked by the retailer on the premises, they will no longer be allowed to accept SNAP benefits. Except if the SNAP participants buying the food are disabled, elderly, or homeless.

All SNAP participating stores and restaurants are encouraged to promote healthy food items and inspire all people, including SNAP recipients, to choose to eat healthy food options.