Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, food benefits were recently extended to include more college students, but the only campus market accepting those benefits is closed for the semester.
Jefferson Marketplace was opened in January 2017 and is currently closed for the Spring Semester due to COVID-19.
“Ohio was one of the first colleges/universities to accept the SNAP benefits,” Gwyn Scott, associate vice president of auxiliaries, said in an email. “(Jefferson Market) is the only venue that meets the guidelines/laws for accepting the SNAP benefits.”
According to OU’s website, Jefferson Market provides students with a grocery market, which sells products such as meals, snacks, beverages, health and beauty products, gifts and school supplies.
“Unfortunately, due to the low volume of students on campus, we had to make the tough decision to not open Jefferson this academic year,” Amber Crosbie, general manager at Jefferson Marketplace, said in an email. “We are hoping (& dreaming) on reopening for Fall 2021 and we are all excited for both new and returning students to have the opportunity to shop and eat there.”
Jefferson is the largest marketplace on campus, so it makes the most sense it would accept SNAP, Crosbie said. There are currently not any plans to add additional venues that accept those benefits.
“Prices in the campus markets are notoriously inflated, so I think it would be a self-defeating purpose for students struggling financially and struggling for access to food for them to spend their SNAP benefits on campus,” Kyle Serrott, a second-year graduate student studying political science, said in an email. “Students should take the local bus to Walmart or Kroger to use their (SNAP) benefits to get the most out of it.”
There are 29 stores including Jefferson Marketplace that accept SNAP benefits within five miles of Athens, according to the SNAP Retail Locator. The Athens Farmers Market also accepts SNAP food benefits, offering customers a Double Snap program. Individuals can swipe their Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card at the market and receive wooden tokens, which double the amount individuals can spend at the market, according to the website.
Serrott said the ability to use SNAP food benefits on campus is important for people who cannot or do not have access to travel, or are otherwise immobile. That ability helps alleviate anxiety and struggles related to food access and transportation, which must be addressed when talking about SNAP benefits, he said.
More information on OU and SNAP food benefits can be found here. Applications for SNAP Food Benefits can be completed through the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services website, or over the phone at 1-844-640-6446.
Scott said OU accepting SNAP benefits on campus adds to the level of support and convenience and believes that it may contribute to a more inclusive community.
“I think there is a lot of stigma around SNAP & students may be hesitant to apply or utilize these benefits,” Crosbie said in an email. “We want students to feel comfortable shopping in our venues and free to use any assistance programs that will help them succeed in college. Culinary Services is all about offering quality food and products to the students on campus. I am very proud of the fact that we have this additional opportunity to serve our community.”