Alaska Commercial Company is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow SNAP recipients in villages off the road system to pay for freight with their Alaska Quest Card.
Currently, the regulations governing the state’s program, or the federal program SNAP, do not allow recipients to pay for freight using their Quest card when ordering groceries online or over the phone.
Due to geographic and supply chain complexities in Alaska, paying for freight is a major issue for SNAP recipients living in rural Alaska, according to a communication from ACC to the City of Nome.
During the Nome Common Council meeting last week, the body decided to support the request from ACC for a change in regulations.
Kyle Hill is the president of Alaska Commercial Company. He explained the reason the company is seeking the change.
“The current legislation does not allow you to pay for shipping costs to pay for freight to fly those groceries using your food stamp dollars. And in villages off the road system, in rural Alaska, this has a number of effects and certainly exacerbates food insecurity. It reduces overall nutrition levels if you can’t get fresh food locally,” Hill said.
In addition to Nome, ACC has received signed letters of support from city and village governments in Teller, Gambell, Savoonga, St. Michael and Koyuk. In Western Alaska, there are ACC stores in Gambell, Nome, and Unalakleet.
“AC reached out to over 100 villages across rural Alaska, and we have already received, in only about a week and a half, 45 signatures on a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, asking to amend the SNAP online legislation,” Hill said. “So clearly the inability to pay for freight with a SNAP card in rural Alaska is not just a Nome-specific challenge. It is a challenge across all communities off the road system, and particularly the very small villages.”
Alaska Commercial Company is sending that letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seeking a change in regulations to allow SNAP to be used for shipping. The Department of Agriculture did not respond to a request for comment before the airing of this story.
Image at top: The Alaska Commercial Company store located in Nome. Photo courtesy Nome Convention & Visitor’s Bureau