7 CFR 278.2 - Participation of retail food stores.
(a)Use of coupons. Coupons may be accepted by an authorized retail food store only from eligible households or the households' authorized representative, and only in exchange for eligible food. Coupons may not be accepted in exchange for cash, except when cash is returned as change in a transaction in which coupons were accepted in payment for eligible food under pargraph (d) of this section. Coupons may not be accepted in payment of interest on loans or for any other nonfood use. An authorized retail food store may not accept coupons from another retail food store, except that public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers may redeem coupons for eligible food through authorized retail food stores.
(b)Equal treatment for coupon customers. Coupons shall be accepted for eligible foods at the same prices and on the same terms and conditions applicable to cash purchases of the same foods at the same store except that tax shall not be charged on eligible foods purchased with coupons. However, nothing in this part may be construed as authorizing FNS to specify the prices at which retail food stores may sell food. However, public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers may only request voluntary use of food stamps from homeless food stamp recipients and may not request such household using food stamps to pay more than the average cost of the food purchased by the public or private nonprofit homeless meal provider contained in a meal served to the patrons of the meal service. For purposes of this section, “average cost” is determined by averaging food costs over a period of up to one calendar month. Voluntary payments by food stamp recipients in excess of such costs may be accepted by the meal providers. The value of donated foods from any source shall not be considered in determining the amount to be requested from food stamp recipients. All indirect costs, such as those incurred in the acquisition, storage, or preparation of the foods used in meals shall also be excluded. In addition, if others have the option of eating free or making a monetary donation, food stamp recipients must be provided the same option of eating free or making a donation in money or food stamps. No retail food store may single out coupon users for special treatment in any way.
(c)Accepting coupons. No authorized retail food store may accept coupons marked “paid,” “canceled,” or “specimen.” Nor may a retail food store accept coupons bearing any cancellation or endorsement, or coupons of other than the 1-dollar denomination which have been detached from the coupon books prior to the time of purchase or delivery of eligible food unless the detached coupons are accompanied by the coupon books which bear the same serial numbers that appear on the detached coupons. However, in the case of public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers, retail food stores may accept detached coupons which have been accepted by the homeless meal provider. It is the right of the household member or the authorized representative to detach the coupons from the book.
(d)Making change. An authorized retail food store shall use, for the purpose of making change, uncanceled and unmarked 1-dollar coupons which were previously accepted for eligible foods. If change in an amount of less than 1-dollar is required, the eligible household shall receive the change in cash. However, in the case of public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers, neither cash change nor credit slips shall be provided under any circumstances when food stamps are used to purchase meals. At no time may cash change in excess of 99 cents be returned in a coupon transaction. An authorized retail food store may not engage in a series of coupon transactions the purpose of which is to provide the same food stamp customer an amount of cash change greater than the maximum 99 cents cash change allowed in one transaction.
(e)Accepting coupons before delivery. Food retailers may not accept coupons before delivering the food, retain custody of any unspent coupons, or in any way prevent an eligible household from using coupons in making purchases from other authorized firms. However, a nonprofit cooperative food purchasing venture may accept coupons from a member of the cooperative at the time the member places a food order. The food ordered must be made available to the member within 14 days from the day the cooperative receives the member's coupons.
(f)Paying credit accounts. Food stamp benefits shall not be accepted by an authorized retail food store in payment for items sold to a household on credit. A firm that commits such violations shall be disqualified from participation in the Food Stamp Program for a period of one year.
(1)Redeeming coupons. Authorized retail food stores may exchange coupons accepted in accordance with this part for face value upon presentation through the banking system or through a wholesale food concern authorized to accept coupons from that retailer. Authorized drug addict or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation programs, group living arrangements, and shelters for battered women and children may present coupons for redemption through authorized wholesale food concerns. A drug addict or alcoholic treatment center, group living arrangement, or shelter for battered women and children may purchase food in authorized retail food stores as the authorized representative of its participating households. Public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers may purchase food in authorized retail food stores and through authorized wholesale food concerns. Authorized drug addict and alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation programs, group living arrangements, shelters for battered women and children, and public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers for homeless food stamp households shall not present coupons directly to an insured financial institution for redemption.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (g)(1) of this section, authorized drug addict and alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation programs, group living arrangements, shelters for battered women and children, and public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers for homeless food stamp households may be authorized to redeem EBT benefits directly through an insured financial institution in areas where an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system has been implemented.
(h)Identifying benefit users. Retailers must accept payment from EBT cardholders who have a valid PIN regardless of which State the card is from or whether the individual is pictured on the card. Where photo EBT cards are in use, the person presenting the photo EBT card need not be pictured on the card, nor does the individual's name need to match the one on the card if the State includes names on the card. However, benefits may not knowingly be accepted from persons who have no right to possession of benefits. If fraud is suspected, retailers shall report the individual to the USDA OIG Fraud Hotline.
(j)Checking hunting and fishing equipment users. Authorized Alaskan retailers shall require coupon customers wanting to purchase hunting and fishing equipment with coupons to show their ID cards to determine that they live in an area designated by FNS as one in which persons are dependent upon hunting and fishing for subsistence.
(l)Checking public or private nonprofit homeless meal provider recipients. Public or private nonprofit homeless meal providers shall establish a food stamp patron's right to purchase meals with coupons.