Ohio University’s Jefferson Marketplace is now a federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program retailer, opening the door for students and residents who qualify for the program to use their benefits immediately. 

In a Wednesday news release, Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina said the approval is a “small step in the right direction” for the university.

“It’s difficult to focus on academics on an empty stomach,” Pina said in the release. “Student Affairs is committed to supporting the needs of our students, including food security, so that they can focus on their educational pursuits.”

As America’s largest nutrition assistance program, SNAP provides assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture —
Food and Nutrition Service. 

Jefferson Market is the only OU dining venue meeting SNAP criteria, according to the news release. The location’s proximity to the perimeter of campus “makes a great connection with the off-campus population,” Associate Vice President for Auxiliaries Gwyn Scott said in the release. 

“We have a large selection of SNAP-eligible products and are looking forward to expanding our offerings as the program participation grows,” Scott said.

The topic of student food insecurity was discussed during both the October and January meetings of the OU Board of Trustees. In November, the university launched the Basic Needs OHIO initiative, a grass-roots effort that is gathering statistics on poverty indicators in counties where OU campuses are located and identifying potential funding opportunities.

According to a sample study conducted as part of a 2016 report, about 20 percent of students sampled at four-year colleges qualify as having very low food security. 

Although most able-bodied college students enrolled at least half-time are not eligible for SNAP benefits, according to the program’s website, students who meet certain requirements may be eligible. 

“In an environment where so many of us experience privilege, it’s easy to overlook existing needs,” Pina said in the release. “By educating students about regional food insecurity, we can instill them with a sense of place and a responsibility to serve.”

@lauren__fisher

lf966614@ohio.edu

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