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Store Eligibility Requirements

animated grocery store front with shopping icons

SNAP retailers play a crucial role in ensuring that eligible households have access to nutritious food options. To become a SNAP retailer, a store must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Criterion A - staple food inventory; or
  • Criterion B - staple food sales

What are staple foods?

Staple foods are basic foods that make up a large part of a person’s diet. They are usually cooked at home and eaten as a meal. The four staple food categories are:

animated lettuce, canned veg, and apple on a navy circle background

Vegetables or fruits

animated canned meat and sliced ham on  a navy circle background

Meat, poultry, or fish

animated bread, grain, and cereal box on navy circle background

Breads or cereals

Staple foods do NOT include prepared or heated foods or accessory foods.

Criterion A: Staple Food Inventory

To meet this requirement, a store must have a minimum of 36 staple food items that meet the following conditions:

  • Three varieties in each of the four staple food categories.
  • Three stocking units for each of the three varieties.
  • One perishable variety in two of the staple food categories

Note: store shelves must have these items for sale on a continuous basis.

Staple Food Key Terms

Variety - A distinct food or distinct product type that has a staple food as its main ingredient.

  • Main ingredient – Usually, this is the first ingredient of a food product. If the first ingredient is water, broth, or stock, then it’s the second ingredient.
  • Distinct product type -Counts as a separate variety even if a product has the same main ingredient.
    • Examples:
      • Distinct type - Milk and mozzarella cheese sticks both have cow’s milk as its main ingredient, but they count as two separate varieties because they are two different types of products (liquid milk vs. cheese).
      • Same type -Chocolate milk and regular milk are counted as only one variety because they are both liquid cow milk.

Stocking unit – The package that a product is usually sold in, such as a can, bunch, box, or bag.

Perishable foods - Fresh produce, frozen or refrigerated items, or any food items that would spoil or significantly deteriorate in quality within three weeks if stored at room temperature.

Minimum Staple Food Inventory Required

Criterion B: Staple Food Sales

To meet this requirement, a stores staple foods must equal more than half (be greater than 50%) of a store’s total gross retail sales.

Specialty stores, such as butcher shops or fruit and vegetable stands, that do not sell enough foods in all four staple food categories often qualify under Criterion B. 

retailer icon on top of a two column table listing staple foods (cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy) and non-staple foods (hot foods, prepared foods, non-food items, accessory foods, alcohol) and a footer "staple food sales must be greater than 50% of total gross sales."

Staple Food Sales Calculation

staple food sales = total gross retail sales minus non-food sales minus prepared or hot food sales minus accessory food sales (all text in blue boxes)

Other Retailer Eligibility Considerations

Need for Access: Stores that don't meet Criterion A or Criterion B are still considered for authorization if they are in an area where SNAP clients have very limited access to food.

Restaurants: Generally, SNAP participants can't redeem benefits at restaurants. A firm is considered a restaurant if more than 50% of the total gross retail sales come from sales of hot or cold prepared foods intended for immediate consumption. Only restaurants located in a state that operates the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) can participate in SNAP.

Co-Location: When multiple firms operating at the same location meet certain conditions, FNS will consider them a single firm when determining eligibility for SNAP authorization.

Retailer Eligibility Resources

Page updated: November 29, 2023