Several Baltimore area fish sellers are feeling salty after the government rescinded their eligibility to accept food stamps for hot, ready-to-eat meals — in this case for steamed crabs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also known as food stamps, tightened the restrictions on selling hot food in October 2017, and disqualified 43 stores in the Baltimore area from accepting food stamps in the past few months, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Now that warmer weather is bringing more people to the shore and crab season has begun, the Maryland stores are worried the lack of revenue from federally funded food vouchers will hurt their businesses.
“I don’t think it’s going to be any good for us crabbers,” Jason Krauch, owner of Pasadena Seafood, which stopped accepting food stamps recently, told The Sun.
“We understand why the government’s doing what they’re doing,” Scott Schoenberger, owner of Waverly Crabs, told The Sun. “They’re trying to get rid of excessive spending money and they want to get people back to work. “The problem I’m having is, why are they targeting the seafood industry?”
The USDA’s retailer rules are designed to reduce purchases of highly priced items. Typically, unprepared foods are less expensive than hot or ready-to-eat meals. The new rules also require that a store’s food stamps sales are come from a mix of four food groups: vegetables or fruits;
dairy products; meat, poultry, or fish; and breads or cereals.
Seafood-specific shops that don’t sell other items would necessarily be disqualified from accepting food stamps, and the new rule makes it clear stores that “primarily sell seafood, pizza, and other food products cold and then offer to heat or cook these products on the premises are operating as restaurants, not retail food stores.”
Any seafood sold in exchange for food stamps would also have to be sold cold, as “hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption” is ineligible for purchase with SNAP money.
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