Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, Food Benefits have been expanded to include more college students in the December 2020 CARES Act.
To qualify for SNAP benefits, which could be up to $200 a month for food, a student must be Work-Study eligible and/or have a zero dollar Expected Family Contribution on the 2020-2021 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. They must also be enrolled as at least a part-time student.
“This is very helpful,” Kyle Serrott, a second-year graduate student studying political science, said. “It’s meant to help people. It’s not meant to be a forever thing, that’s why they have eligibility requirements … It’s meant for times like exactly what we are living through.”
Serott thinks there is a stigma around poverty, and said it is unfortunate for some to be discouraged from accepting assistance.
“Instead of thinking of it as a handout, I think of it as a resource to assist people during a really difficult and challenging time,” Kathy Fahl, interim associate dean of students, said. “I think of it just like any other resource like Counseling and Psychological Services … There are moments when you need that. The same thing is true about needing help with paying for food and groceries. So if we can normalize this resource, I think more students would take advantage of it.”
Fahl said that due to the pandemic, students may be hesitant to accept assistance because they may believe they are not as bad off as others.
“Often I hear students who are struggling and thinking about others, and it's OK to think about ourselves too during these moments,” she said.
The benefits can be used at grocery stores, Jefferson Marketplace and even the Athens Farmers Market. According to the Athens Farmers Market website, they offer a Double Snap program. For every dollar spent, the website said, they will give wooden tokens in return that can be spent on food at the market.
“This (SNAP) expansion is considerable, and will open up these benefits to a lot of Ohio University students,” Doug Schmaltz, basic needs coordinator at the Office of Dean of Students, said. “If anyone is even contemplating looking into this, I would encourage students to go ahead and apply. If you don’t end up needing the benefits, that’s fine. But, if you’re in a position where you’re struggling to make ends meet, please look into SNAP. We’re here to help you along the way.”
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.
If students are not eligible for SNAP benefits or need additional assistance, there are other resources available to them. A list of local food pantries can be found here and Ohio University provides a guide for free community meals and information about Emergency Microgrants.
Cat’s Cupboard, a on-campus food pantry, is currently offering food pick-ups twice a month to students, faculty and staff with appointments due to COVID-19. They are also accepting donations on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. outside of the Maggie Davis Room in Baker Center. The list of most-needed items and how to donate can be found on their website. Food donations can also be purchased through their Amazon Food Pantry Needs List. For more information about Cat’s Cupboard, you can contact call 740-593-1800.