Staple Food Item Availability among Small Retailers in Providence, RI
Inventory requirements for authorized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers have undergone several revisions to increase the availability of healthful foods. A proposed rule of 84 staple food items was not implemented due to concerns that stores would not withstand this expansion, resulting in a final rule requiring 36 items. This study used the Food Access Research Atlas data to characterize food provisions in 30 small retailers in areas with high and low proportions of SNAP and racial minority residents in Providence, Rhode Island (RI). Stores were assessed with an audit instrument to tally variety, perishability, and depth of stock of four staple food categories. Descriptive, analysis of variance, and chi-square analyses were performed. Across stores, 80% were compliant with the final rule, but 66.7% would need to expand their offerings to meet the proposed rule. Mean dairy variety was lowest among all categories (p < 0.05). Most stores met the perishability (92.3%) and depth-of-stock requirements (96.1%) under both rules. No difference was detected between areas with high and low proportions of SNAP and racial minority residents. Future expansion of requirements may increase healthful food availability without imposing undue burdens on retailers in Providence, RI, excluding increased requirements for dairy variety.