CHICAGO, IL, September 29, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced it has taken action against 40 Detroit retailers suspected of violating USDA rules for accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Twelve stores are charged with trafficking based on an undercover investigation, seven are charged with trafficking based on a data analysis investigation, and twenty-one are charged with selling ineligible items on an undercover investigation, which could lead to a six-month disqualification if FNS findings are upheld. As a next step, FNS will be initiating proceedings to revoke the authorization for these retailers to accept SNAP benefits. Retailers that act improperly undermine the program and SNAP recipients’ access to nutritious food.
The rate of trafficking, which is the exchange of SNAP benefits for U.S. currency or other things of value, in SNAP is very low with only about 1.6% of stores engaging in unauthorized activities. Stores participating in SNAP are overwhelmingly strong partners who follow the rules and support participants. FNS also works aggressively to identify and root out fraud with robust integrity measures such as these.
SNAP is a critical safety net for many individuals as they work to support themselves and their families and put food on the table. There is clear evidence that participating in SNAP reduces food insecurity, with a particularly strong impact on the most severe forms of hunger and nutrition deficiency. USDA Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat.
USDA monitors SNAP purchases at retail food stores suspected of violating program rules and regulations, including trafficking and allowing the purchase of ineligible items. After concluding positive investigations, USDA takes administrative action to ensure store owners who violate SNAP rules and regulations can no longer participate in the program.
“While most retailers comply with federal rules and regulations, it is important to USDA that any retailer abusing this vital program that helps millions of Americans put food on the table is held accountable,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long. “USDA’s nutrition assistance programs promote nutrition security and, thereby, the health and well-being of American families, so today, we are taking appropriate action against these retailers, and we are confident this will help to deter other retailers from committing similar violations.”
Nutrition insecurity disproportionately affects low-income families of color and USDA believes that a stronger nutrition safety net is imperative to building equality within the country. Black and Latino adults are more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their household does not get enough to eat: 15.9% and 16.3%, respectively, compared to 5.9% of white adults. Adults who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or multiracial, are about twice as likely (12.2%) as white adults to report that their household do not get enough to eat.
All told, in Fiscal Year 2020, FNS implemented 2,192 administrative sanction actions against SNAP retailers. These actions stem from findings of program violations and include 1,144 retailers being permanently disqualified for trafficking.
In good times and tough times, the federal nutrition safety net is among the most far-reaching tools available to ensure all Americans – regardless of race, ethnicity, or background – have access to healthy, safe, affordable food to eat.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
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