Do convenience stores accepting food aid funds offer enough healthy choices?
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – It’s a struggle for many Ohioans to put fresh food on the table, especially those who live in rural areas.
19 Surveys have shown that gas stations and dollar stores are sometimes their only options.
We took a look at what constitutes healthy eating for people who rely on food stamps, checking whether local stores accepting government money stock enough healthy options.
If you’ve ever wondered why this lonely banana is sitting all alone on a gas station counter, there’s a reason.
They can accept SNAP benefits, known as food stamps, and must meet certain requirements.
The USDA defines “staple foods” as the staple foods that are an important part of a person’s diet.
They do not include prepared foods or heated foods in this category.
The four staple food categories are:
- Fruits or vegetables (including canned foods)
- Meat, poultry or fish (including canned tuna)
- Dairy products (including grated cheese)
- Breads or cereals
Stores must regularly stock at least three types of each staple food category in order to accept SNAP benefits.
19 Investigations have found that tater tots are considered vegetables, after all, they belong to the potato family – and beef jerky and chicken nuggets count as meat.
These might not be the healthiest options, but according to the USDA, they’re good enough.
19 Investigators infiltrated to check some stores accepting federal funding to see if they were stocking enough of these necessary foods.
Experts said some stores barely meet the requirements.
We checked three stores in Holmes County, where 11% of people are food insecure.
This included a specialty store, gas station convenience store, and health food store.
Every store we checked in Millersburg complied with the USDA guidelines we listed above.
We have found that finding fresh food is not a problem in Holmes County.
It’s different from some other rural areas, where people may have to drive more than 10 minutes to get to a grocery store or gas station for food.
This part of the Appalachians is unique. It is also an Amish country, and it is a big driver of the local economy.
The stores we visited are essential for grocery shopping, but they are also an important stop for visitors.
One of the stores we stopped by was Trail Side Deli.
“We have about 35 different kinds of meat and 35 different kinds of cheese.” said owner Lavern Miller.
Its cheeses are made locally in Amish country.
Miller knows his clients.
“Just meeting people and making friends is huge for us,” Miller said.
Whether they live here or are visiting, they want fresh, healthy food.
It’s not difficult for Miller to get to his store.
Some people walk for miles to shop here.
Trail Side Deli accepts food stamps.
People who depend on it can get more than prepackaged canned food here.
“People come in with it, we honor it, we help them. For me, it was important to serve these types of people, ”Miller said.
Stores can make a lot of money if they accept food stamps.
But many advocates report that they don’t offer enough healthy choices.
A few years ago, Congress passed legislation to increase healthy food choices for people who depend on food stamps.
But our national investigation team found that no changes had yet been implemented.
You can watch their story here.
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