You shouldn’t have to survive on ramen noodles while getting your education. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as food stamps, gives students a monthly food allowance while enrolled in school.
According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, students enrolled in at least six credits of college courses are eligible for SNAP benefits. Students must be employed and working at least 20 hours a week to receive SNAP benefits. Alternatively, students who are eligible for work-study can receive food stamps.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research and policy institute, reports that 1-in-8 Washington state residents use food stamps. The Washington Post reports as many as 1-in-3 college students experience food insecurity, meaning these students struggle to find enough to eat.
Juan Serrano, a psychology major, knows a few students who struggle to buy food.
“There’s a lot of students out there that [really] don’t know about the food stamp program,” Serrano said. “I had a classmate stop a lecture and told the teacher, ‘Do you know where I could find a place that has food?’”
The solution is simple: apply for food stamps.
The CBPP reports an average of $122 a month of food stamp benefits per person. That means you can buy low-cost foods that are nutritious and filling, such as rice, beans, pasta and frozen vegetables, and still have enough to use on avocado toast.
Students who have children may be eligible for more food stamp benefits. Using food stamps helps students save money to use on other necessities, like books, rent and gas.
Unfortunately, there are negative stereotypes associated with using food stamps. As a result, people who need SNAP benefits may feel reluctant to use them.
“I think a lot of that has to do with … skewed ideas they have of people that use these programs. I’m a Mexican-American … I come from a background where sometimes my people have needed help before, and a lot of the times people are always so skeptical of that,” Serrano said.
But these negative stereotypes aren’t true. SNAP benefits don’t just benefit students. They benefit the economy, as well. The CBPP reports $1 of SNAP benefits produces $1.70 in economic growth. Those who receive food stamps spend more on food, naturally.
“By providing more resources for food, SNAP helps free up cash for poor households to buy other essential items, like diapers and medication. As a result, retail sales increase, benefiting stores that sell both food and non-food items,” the CBPP website reads.
While you pursue your education, you should be supported. One day, you’ll give back to the community by using what you’ve learned in college.
Using food stamps for a couple of years in college should be comparable to accepting grants and scholarships for school. Without food, you won’t be able to finish your education. Money is tight, so we should use the resources that are available to us.
For more information on how to get involved with SNAP, contact the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), the SNAP administers. One can call the DTA at (877) 382-2363.