This is an existing collection in use without an OMB Control Number in which we are seeking approval to establish a process for requesting a waiver from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to offer SNAP recipients incentives at SNAP authorized retailer locations that encourage them to purchase healthier foods. This collection burden only affects SNAP retailers as well as private organizations or governmental entities who partner with SNAP retailers. There are no data collection activities for SNAP households in this request.
SNAP equal treatment provisions at 7 CFR 278.2(b) and 7 CFR 274.7(f) require that SNAP recipients receive treatment equal to that received by other customers at all stores authorized to participate in SNAP with the exception that sales tax may not be charged on eligible foods purchased with SNAP benefits. This equal treatment provision prohibits both negative treatment (such as discriminatory practices) as well as preferential treatment (such as incentive programs). Pursuant to Section 4008 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, PL 115-334 (2018 Farm Bill), individual SNAP authorized retailers (or private organizations or governmental entities, which partner with authorized stores) may request that FNS waive the SNAP equal treatment provisions in order to be allowed to implement an incentive program the meets the requirements under 7 USC 2018(j) to encourage SNAP recipients to purchase healthier foods. Most SNAP authorized stores that offer incentives to SNAP recipients are either farmers' markets or part of a federally-funded grant program that is authorized by statute, including the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) administered by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Healthy Fluid Milk Incentive (HFMI) project administered by the Food and Nutrition Service.
Farmer's markets are also already authorized to provide incentives to SNAP recipients under a blanket FNS waiver of the SNAP equal treatment provision, specifically for farmers' markets. Only incentive projects that are funded outside of a federal grant, other than projects funded by farmers' markets, are required to have a waiver from FNS to provide incentives to SNAP households at authorized SNAP retailer locations. FNS provided incentive waivers to SNAP retailers prior to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill under FNS' regular waiver process and has been providing the waivers under a streamlined approach since 2020. Over the past 3 years, FNS has received an average of nine incentive waiver requests that generally cover multiple retailer locations, and we expect those numbers to increase over the next 5 years. With this new streamlined process, the Department estimates that out of 254,350 authorized retailers that participate in our program, approximately 730 different retailers would be covered under 15 different incentive waiver requests annually. In general, the waivers are granted for three years.
The process for requesting a waiver involves utilizing a form on FNS' website that is directly fillable online and automatically sent to FNS through the website. The information a retailer must submit includes:
- Requestor information;
- Dates of operation;
- Retailer location(s), including the FNS number, name, and address of each participating retailer;
- Foods being incentivized;
- Description of the incentive model; and
- The goal of the incentive program.
FNS invites interested persons to submit written comments on this information collection. Comments may be submitted in writing by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking portal: go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
- Mail: Comments should be addressed to Marga Ortiz, Chief, Retailer Policy Branch, Retailer Policy Division, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.
All responses to this notice summarized and included in the request for Office of Management and Budget approval. All comments will be a matter of public record.