Store owners say proposed federal healthy eating plan will hurt business

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The new rules proposed by the UDSA would require retailers that accept SNAP benefits, formerly called Food Stamps, to provide more fresh and healthy food options. (KFSN)

Proposed federal regulations intended to promote healthy eating could make it harder for people who use food stamps to shop at convenience stores.

The new rules proposed by the UDSA would require retailers that accept SNAP benefits, formerly called Food Stamps, to provide more fresh and healthy food options.

Some retailers say the proposed rule could hurt business.

Shoppers are constantly coming in and out of Best Buy Market and Liquor in Merced and manager Sameer Murshed said many of them rely on his shop for food.

"From my groceries, 60 percent," he said. "Most of it is food, percent comes mostly from food stamps."

The assistance once known as Food Stamps is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. New standards would require retailers that accept SNAP to stock more and fresher varieties of food, and that has managers like Murshed worried.

"Basically, these people won't spend this money over here and it'll be basically a lose for us."

The Food and Nutrition Service estimates that nearly 90 percent of currently authorized small stores nationwide would need to add inventory items to meet this new requirement.

Murshed said all he can do is expand but said it's not just costly, but risky.

"Maybe once people see us expand as a supermarket people will start shopping here," he explained. "But if you can expand, I don't know what's going to happen."

Several Merced corner stores said shoppers depend on their stores because there aren't any big supermarkets in the area. They said this will not only hurt small business owners, but also shoppers.

"It's going to affect a lot of families," said Samir Ahmed who owns Shop and Save. "They don't have transportation to go to big stores and it's going to affect everybody."

The USDA states, "It is disappointing to see some take a position against increasing healthier food options for our most vulnerable. We are now in the process of analyzing comments in order to prepare the final rule and we are confident the final rule, when proposed, will succeed in increasing food choices without harming small retailers."

Jill Diaz of Merced said she knows many who use SNAP benefits and said they should be able to spend their money where they want.

"I understand the healthy part but we still should have the right to eat where we want and spend our money where we want," Diaz said.

Now, store managers are hoping the proposed rule doesn't pass so small shops can stay afloat.

"We get cash for beer and stuff like you only make so much percentage out of that," Murshed said. "You can't really make that much on that, unlike the grocery."
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businessbusinessmerced countyfood stampsMerced
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