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Fighting Hunger at the Store: Retailers’ Important Role in SNAP

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SNAP (food stamps), the nation’s primary anti-hunger program, boosts low-income households’ food purchasing power, with SNAP participants using their benefits to buy food at 248,000 stores throughout the country. Our retailer resource page highlights the important role of retailers in every state and congressional district.

SNAP boosts local economies through this public-private partnership. Because most households redeem their monthly SNAP benefits quickly, SNAP is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus during a downturn, pumping money into local economies and helping to keep people employed. It can also be an important source of revenue for many stores. SNAP has responded quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 public health emergency, providing emergency benefit allotments and an expanded option to enable online purchasing so that households can avoid unnecessary trips to the store.

Participating retailers include small, locally owned businesses as well as national retail chains. Stores range in size from superstores (such as warehouse clubs and big-box retailers), supermarkets, and grocery stores to corner stores and farmers markets. To participate, retailers must stock a prescribed variety of foods and be authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a result, SNAP participants can use their benefits in many stores and settings that also are available to other consumers, though some communities have few or no authorized retailers.

Like most households, SNAP participants buy most of their food at superstores and supermarkets, even though these stores comprise only 15.4 percent of SNAP retailers. Superstores alone redeem over half of all benefits (see chart). While convenience stores make up nearly half of SNAP retailers and can provide crucial access to food in rural communities, they’re a minor source of food for participants, redeeming only 6 percent of SNAP benefits.

See our resource page here.