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Jeff Market located on Ohio University's East Green in Athens, Ohio, Sept. 27, 2023.

OU offers limited options for students to use SNAP benefits

Out of all three campus markets – Jefferson Marketplace, Boyd and Nelson Market  – Jeff Marketplace, located in East Green, is the only one that allows students to use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to purchase groceries. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP can assist someone of low income to pay for food that is essential to their health and well-being, and college students are among those who can apply for these benefits. 

For students to apply for SNAP benefits, they must be at least enrolled halftime and disclose via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, application that they are eligible for a work-study or have zero expected family contribution.

However, those who do not have a FAFSA on file may qualify if they meet one of the following criteria: work at least 20 hours a week, care for a child under six years old, care for a child as a single parent between the ages of six to 11 while enrolled as a full-time student or cannot pay for childcare, receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families assistance, unable to work due to a disability or under the age of 18 or older than 50 years old. 

“I have a work-study, so it was pretty simple (to apply for SNAP),” said an Ohio University student who chose to remain anonymous to not reveal their use of food benefits. “I wouldn’t say that having a work-study is automatic approval, but it did benefit me a lot because there was a lot of paperwork I was able to bypass.” 

The student said after bypassing some of the paperwork, they had to fill out an application, do an interview on the phone about their income and submit a document proving how much they had to pay for expenses like rent and how much money they received in financial aid. The student also said they had to go to Chubb Hall to have someone validate their work-study and submit a timesheet for their work.

“After that, I was basically approved – pretty fast, simple process,” the student said.

Mackenzie Moore, community empowerment specialist for Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action, or HAPCAP, said it is not difficult to attain SNAP if you meet its eligibility requirements. 

“As long as you stay on top of sending them the documentation they need and staying on top of the process,” she wrote in an email. “It is a very time-sensitive process, so you must be on top of turning things in and getting things done.”

According to a university press release, some students are eligible to receive up to $200 a month for groceries. 

To view access to SNAP benefits, anyone can check their availability on Ohio Benefits’s website. People can apply in person at the Athens County Job and Family Services, located at 13183 state Route 13.

SNAP can be used similarly to a debit card – food assistance benefits electronically go on the Ohio Discretion Card. These benefits can be used to buy most groceries, with exceptions to alcohol, tobacco, medicine, hot food plates meant to be eaten immediately and non-food items, according to OU’s website

Assistant Manager of Culinary Services at Jeff Marketplace Bonnie White said students come to the marketplace about once a week to use SNAP benefits. 

Athens residents who use SNAP can also utilize Jeff Marketplace’s assisted services, according to a university press release

White said the only register that accommodates SNAP payments is register three, which is located in the front of the market across from the deli. 

Although Jeff Marketplace is the only on-campus market to accept SNAP benefits, White said there are no means of promoting this service; White said, there used to be a sign outside of the building stating SNAP could be used at the market, but it has since been taken down. 

Cat’s Cupboard, a supplemental food pantry located in Baker Center room 514, offers assistance for helping students to apply for SNAP. For more information on how students can apply for food stamps, students can visit the office. Along the window of The Cats’ Cupboard Office are multiple ways of getting in contact with SNAP, HAPCAP and other Basic Needs Programs, including a QR code to a link for students to check their eligibility. 

Haley Loveless, a student worker for Cats’ Cupboard, said it is a supplemental food pantry, so it cannot meet someone’s full food needs, and if people need more resources the workers send them to the Athens County Food Pantry, 13183A state Route13. She said they fight hunger for students and faculty with items such as canned goods, vegetables, peanut butter, bread, soup and other non-perishables. 

“When people ask us questions about SNAP and signing up for the EBT/Food Stamp program, we refer them to our HAPCAP contact and then go over the application process over the phone so that they can complete it and that it’s all filled out correctly.” Carly Pabin, supervisor at Cats’ Cupboard, said.

Pabin said the cupboard gets about 115 visits a week.

On Court Street, SNAP is accepted by general stores and retailers such as CVS Pharmacy, Speedway Gas Station and Family Dollar. However, most restaurants on Court Street, including El Tenampa, Big Mama’s Burritos and Jimmy John’s do not accept SNAP as a form of currency.  

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