Retailers and others are being asked to comment on a proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would make public records of some transaction data related to the volume of food stamps redeemed at individual stores.
Published in the Federal Register on Aug. 4, the USDA’s “request for information” includes a comment deadline of Sept. 8. The full notice is available at tinyurl.com/SNAPretailers.
“Our goal is to provide more transparency so that people can have access to basic information about the amount of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits that individual grocery stores and retailers are redeeming,” agriculture undersecretary Kevin Concannon said in a news release.
Officials with the National Grocers Association are reviewing the USDA’s notice, said spokeswoman Laura Strange. The association plans to provide its members with information on the proposal and file comments.
The USDA also is considering whether adjustments should be made to SNAP regulations regarding the release of SNAP retailer transaction data in the future based on input from the public, according to the release. Comments can be filed via the Web at tinyurl.com/SNAPcomments.
President Obama’s initiative to make government more open and accessible is cited in the news release as the reason for the move to make the retailer transactions related to food stamp redemptions public records.
The USDA has kept retailers’ SNAP redemption data private since 1978, according to the news release. However, a South Dakota newspaper successfully challenged that practice and the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled in favor of the newspaper.
Consequently, USDA officials are now considering whether food stamp redemption data constitutes confidential business information under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Additionally, the USDA is considering what, if any, adjustments should be made to SNAP regulations regarding the release of SNAP retailer transaction data in the future based on input from the public,” according to the release.
More than 46 million people receive monthly benefits through SNAP, with nearly half of them being children. More than 40% of the SNAP recipients live in households that include wage earners, according to the release.