Trump proposal would allow spray cheese to count as a staple for food stamps
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Food items like canned spray cheese, olives, wheat-based frozen pizzas and beef jerky would all count as “staple foods” for federal food stamps under a Trump administration proposal that is open for public comment.

According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), stores that take part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) must carry at least three types of staple foods in four staple food categories: fruits or vegetables; meat, poultry or fish; dairy products; and breads or cereals.

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But under the proposed rule, which was introduced in April and is open for public comment through June 4, canned spray cheese would count as a dairy product. Pimento-stuffed olives would count as a vegetable, and beef jerky would count as a meat product. Lemon juice can also be counted as a fruit product.

A USDA spokesperson emphasized that "the proposed rule text simply provides examples of stocking items."

"These are not required stocking items nor are they nutritional recommendations," the spokesperson told The Hill.

The spokesperson noted that beef jerky has in the past been referenced by the agency as an example of a meat staple.

Bloomberg News, which first highlighted the proposed rule this week, reported that some nutrition advocacy groups are speaking out against the proposal.

“You don’t have to have a nutrition degree to know that canned spray cheese sauce is not a staple food,” Margo Wootan, vice president for nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Bloomberg News.

Wootan compared the proposal to an effort under the Reagan administration to count ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches.

“Those are not real food you could serve to your family for dinner," she said.

However, the Department of Agriculture estimated the proposal could allow small businesses to save $500 each over five years. 

“It provides greater regulatory flexibility to SNAP retailers, particularly small entities,” the proposed rule said. 

During the 2017 fiscal year, 82 percent of SNAP benefits were redeemed at supermarkets like Walmart and Target, Bloomberg News reported. Only six percent were redeemed at convenience stores, but those store made up 45 percent of stores available to accept the benefits. 

Updated: May 31 at 5:55 p.m.