Changes in Food Stamp Rules Result in Drop in Sales for Some Lexington Market Vendors
Mary Mervis Delicatessen used to serve a daily rush of 1,000 customers, who lined up for the Lexington Market stall’s meats and cheeses, corned beef sandwiches and shrimp salad. But traffic, already down to about 400 people a day since the Freddie Gray riots, has plummeted by at least half again since the century-old deli lost food stamp eligibility…. The deli is among a group of Baltimore public market vendors who have lost or are in danger of losing eligibility to take payments through SNAP, the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program for low-income people. Because of changes phased in over the last several years and heavier scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, market merchants such as delis, bakeries and crab shacks no longer meet federal requirements for vendors…. Responding to pleas from vendors who are losing their ability to accept food stamps, several members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation fired off a letter Monday to the head of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service asking the agency to look into the withdrawal of SNAP eligibility for several market retailers and to help them. The delegation members, including senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and representatives John P. Sarbanes, Elijah E. Cummings, and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, said Lexington Market operates under a model that does not exist in other cities in a historically low-income, food- and transportation-scarce area. “It is critical to have local retailers that provide healthy, accessible food for residents of the area — as well as the city as a whole — through the SNAP program,” said the letter to Brandon Lipps, administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service.