retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Jennifer Hatcher, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) senior vice president of government and public affairs, issued the following statement in order to clarify hunger program funding during the government shutdown:

“Misinformation continues to circulate regarding the October 1 government closure’s impact on federally-funded hunger programs, which has in turn created customer concern and thus operational challenges for the food retail industry.
“While we certainly want the shutdown to end quickly, funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) extends through October, so SNAP customer benefits will be available.  Food retailers always experience heavy volume at the first of the month when benefits are loaded onto EBT cards, so our message to SNAP customers is that they can utilize their benefits throughout the month, and there is no need to redeem all of their benefits now.

“In contrast to SNAP, which functions as a mandatory program, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which supports nutritionally at-risk moms and children, relies on annual federal appropriations. FMI and our members and state associations have been in contact with each of the state WIC agencies. Many states still have leftover FY2013 funds available for WIC benefits or have repurposed funds that were intended for other areas or for contingencies. USDA sent additional funds yesterday to those states that were facing immediate WIC funding challenges. At this time, every state is accepting WIC vouchers in order to keep feeding those vulnerable moms and children, and again, there is no need for moms to rush to a store to try to redeem all of their allotments on their WIC checks. 


• United Supermarkets announced this week that it is extending its Military Discount Wednesdays program to seven-days-a-week until further notice as a result of the federal government’s shutdown and the subsequent closure of military base commissaries.

According to the announcement, United is offering "a 10 percent discount on grocery purchases for all active, retired and civilian military at all eight United Supermarkets and Market Street locations in Abilene, Burkburnett and Wichita Falls," communities located near active U.S. Air Force bases (Dyess AFB near Abilene and Sheppard AFB near Burkburnett and Wichita Falls). The discount is applicable to all grocery purchases – excluding fuel, gift cards or pharmacy purchases – with valid military ID."


Politico reports that "federal meat safety inspectors might still have their jobs on Day Two of the government shutdown — keeping steaks, hamburgers, turkey and chicken safe for human consumption — but what about the rest of the food on our plates?

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, responsible for 80 percent of the food supply, is halting routine food inspections. This means no government oversight of practically everything else in the grocery store. Also, most of the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the group that identifies and tracks foodborne illnesses, have been told to stay home ... According to the plan released by the administration, FDA will be 'unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities.' That includes routine food manufacturer inspections, compliance and enforcement of food safety regulations and food import monitoring."
KC's View: