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Mini-Marts and SNAP

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Starting Friday, food stamp benefits will be cut. More than 47 million people currently receive food stamps. These cuts are the result of an expiration of a provision in the 2009 stimulus. As those reductions take effect, the options that people can buy with food stamps can be limited.

The state of Oregon has important requirements for stores to accept food stamps, but some stores find ways around those rules, and the food they sell those low-income families is not healthy.

When you think of a meal, you probably don’t think of candy, chips and soda, but for some low-income families, depending on where they live and shop, that can be a reality. Now some groups are cracking down on stores to make sure people get the healthy food they need.

If you don’t make much money, don’t have a car, and live far away from a supermarket, these mini marts may be your closest source of food.

With cuts to food stamps, people have less to spend, and what they’re getting on the cheap isn’t always nutritious. In order to accept food stamps, stores need to offer fresh fruits vegetables, dairy, bread and meat, but most mini marts make their money off a different food pyramid, candy, chips, soda, beer and cigarettes.

Some stores try to get around food stamp requirements. NewsWatch12 walked through several stores that accepted the Oregon Trail food stamp card, also known as the SNAP program, and found the bare minimum: a couple pieces of fruit sitting out. They’re not breaking the law, but it’s not exactly, “putting healthy food within reach”.

ACCESS wants to do something about it.

“We’re helping to promote nutritional items that they’re willing to carry, and coupling them with local farmers so that we can get good products in the store,” explained Philip Yates with ACCESS.

One of those is the Peach Street Market. They began offering fresh fruit last year, but for the first few months, much of it was being thrown away.

“When I first introduced it, there was absolutely no profit, there was a loss, as a matter of fact,” said Nancy Murrish, the owner of Peach St. Market.

Murrish says she’s worked hard to promote the healthy options, both for her customers’ health, and her business’s health.

“Even though I make my profit off of the cigarettes, the beers, the candy, the soda pops, the unhealthy things, I have a conscience about the health of people in the neighborhood,” Murrish said.

The USDA licenses stores to accept the SNAP card. This year, they investigated 5,000 stores across the country, and fined and disqualified almost 700 stores for violating program rules.