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Is Trump Right to Let Gas Stations Offer SNAP and to Classify Cheese Spray as a Staple?

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Richmond Emergency Food Bank volunteer Abdul Olorode packs boxes with food to be handed out to needy people on November 1st, 2013, in Richmond, California.

Under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, low-income Americans receive an average of $150 on their electronic benefit transfer card every month to buy groceries. The program has been proven to reduce food insecurity for the roughly 40 million people who participate. But exactly what type of food these participants are receiving has long been a point of contention.

Many public-health experts believe SNAP should institute standards that promote nutrition, even if these regulations don’t keep the wealthier part of the population from buying processed foods. Others note that some of these policies also run the risk of stigmatizing the poor for their nutritional choices. In the past, this debate has played out through bans on soda and candy. Under the Trump administration’s recent rollbacks of SNAP stocking standards, it comes down to spray cheese.

Currently, SNAP retailers are required to stock certain varieties of foods across four staple categories: Fruits or vegetables; meat, poultry, or fish; dairy products; and breads or cereals. Efforts to strengthen these standards under President Barack Obama—requiring a certain amount of whole grain staples in the bread category, for example—died in Congress. Now the Trump administration is rolling back what few standards the program has in place. A new rule from the United States Department of Agriculture, which goes into effect after the comment period ends on Thursday, would make it easier for gas stations and convenience stores to accept SNAP and allows for more snack foods to qualify as staples—possibly reducing participants’ access to fresh produce and other nutritious foods in the process.

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Thanks !

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