College students who are unable to afford healthy food may be entitled to food stamps, also known as SNAP benefits. There are, however, specific eligibility requirements that college students between the ages of 18 and 49 must meet before they can receive their food stamps.
How SNAP Works
The Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps, is a federal program that provides individuals and families with funds that can only be spent on food. Those who participate in the program receive an electronic benefits card that allows them to pay for food at participating retailers. The amount of food benefits that a person can receive depends on her income and whether she provides support for dependents, as well as herself.
The Application Process
The application process varies by state, but applications are often processed through a local public assistance agency. Applicants typically fill out either an online or paper application and then must meet with a caseworker to determine eligibility. Depending on the state, this meeting can take place either in person or over the phone The agency or caseworker will let the student know what documentation he needs to submit along with his application.
College Student Requirements
Most students enrolled at least half-time in college will not be eligible for food stamps; adults enrolled as students on at least a half-time basis must meet special criteria to be eligible for SNAP assistance. Federal guidelines require these students to either be eligible for other forms of public assistance, caring for a dependent child, participating in a workforce training program, or employed at least 20 hours per week to be eligible for SNAP. Some states, such as Oregon, support expanded eligibility criteria that may allow students who are unfit for work, or who are receiving unemployment compensation, to apply for food stamps. Students who live in dormitory housing and participate in a school meal plan may not be eligible for SNAP.
Getting Additional Help
Students who struggle financially may be able to get assistance from their schools. These students should first contact the financial aid department to learn if they are eligible for additional financial assistance in the form of grants, loans and scholarships. Some schools have emergency funds that provide short-term loans and other assistance to students. Schools may also be able to help with other needs, such as daycare or housing. Finally, school counselors may be able to refer students to community agencies that provide additional support.
- USDA.gov: Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program: Students
- Washington Post: Food Stamps: Once Associated with the Poor, Now Commonly Used Among College Students
- USDA.gov: Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program: Eligibility
- Mount Wachusett Community College: Food Stamps/SNAP: Extra Financial Help for College Students
- Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon: SNAP for College Students
- USDA.gov: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Portland State University: Nutrition, It's a SNAP!
- Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon: Student Criteria for SNAP (Formerly Food Stamps)
- University of Maryland: Emergency Assistance
- Grand Valley State University: Student Food Pantry
- USDA.gov: SNAP Application and Local Office Locators