Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to examine the issues retailers face while administering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Jimmy Wright, owner of Wright’s Market in Opelika, Alabama, testified at this hearing on behalf of NGA and the independent supermarket industry.
By way of background, SNAP is one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) main food assistance programs. For over 40 years, SNAP has served as the nation’s largest hunger safety net for millions of Americans. The grocery industry has long been a private partner with the federal and state government in administering the SNAP program. For over three decades the nation’s independent supermarkets have served millions of low-income households, families with children, the elderly, and disabled through the SNAP food delivery system.
Jimmy’s store originally opened as a small 2100 sq. ft. convenience store in 1973, where he worked there as a high school student. He was able to purchase the store from his previous employer in 1997, and since then his store has expanded to its current size of 22,000 sq. ft. Today, Wright’s Market is a full service supermarket with 32 employees and has accepted SNAP as a form of tender essentially since the store opened.
As a steward of his community, Jimmy was able to offer the Committee a unique perspective on the important role independent supermarket operators play in the SNAP program. While the SNAP program serves as a great assistance for families, especially children and the elderly who are in need, there are some improvements that can be made to the program to make it more efficient for both retailers and SNAP recipients.
For example, in an effort to better serve their customers, Wright’s Market is in the process of launching an online ordering and home delivery service. The idea behind this program was to reach those customers who are physically homebound or unable to come into the grocery store. Jimmy hopes to expand the online delivery service to the rural areas without access to fresh foods in the counties surrounding his store. Having the ability to accept and process SNAP benefit cards onsite, at a customer’s home or in a central delivery location can help to grow delivery services and reach more people using SNAP benefits.
This and many other important issues were raised by Jimmy and his colleagues in the food retail industry, and while NGA appreciates the hard work done by USDA on this issue, we will continue to work with the agency and Members of Congress as they consider policies to make the program more efficient and ultimately, easier for Americans in need to receive access to food.
To view a webcast of the full hearing, click HERE.