The US Department of Agriculture last week distributed its final rule on the Supplemental Nutrition Program, changing the program's eligibility requirements.

The changes to the program, formerly known as food stamps, makes it easier for retailers to offer a larger number of healthy food options.

"This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy stable foods available for purchase at participating stores, while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural areas," says Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary. "We received many helpful comments on the proposed rule and have modified the final rule in important ways to ensure that these dual goals are met. I am confident that this rule will ensure the retailers that participate in SNAP offer a variety of healthy foods for purchase and that SNAP recipients will continue to have access to the stores they need to be able to purchase food."

SNAP provides more than 44 million Americans, including millions of children, with the resources to buy food and sets the requirements for the 258,000 stores that accept SNAP benefits for food purchases.

The National Association of Convenience Stores said in a statement that it is "heartened that USDA removed several problematic provisions from the final rule, which would have made it impossible for tens of thousands of convenience stores to meet its requirement." Those provisions included a ban on multiple-ingredient items and an expanded definition of 'accessory foods' that would have knocked out healthy grab-and-go items from counting toward a retailer's stocking requirements.