Food stamps offer alternative for penny-pinching students
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 23:09
For many people the college years are a time of pinching pennies and watching their wallets grow steadily thinner. Oftentimes, students are unable to earn the money necessary to buy healthy food while still making time for class and studying.
The United States Food and Nutrition Service has a way to help. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides supplementary nutritional assistance for citizens nationwide, and it’s not just for families anymore.
If a part- to full-time college student meets one of the following criteria, they may qualify for entrance into SNAP, according to the United States Food and Nutrition Service website.
A student can be eligible if they are:
• The recipient of federal student grants in the form of the Federal Pell Grant, Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National SMART Grant, or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
• The recipient of federal student loans in the form of the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), Direct Loan, or Federal Perkins Loan
• A participant in federal or state-sponsored work study
• Working at least 20 hours a week
• Responsible for a child under 6 years old
• Responsible for a child between 5 and 12 years old and lacking sufficient childcare to allow recipient to participate in work study or be employed more than 20 hours a week
• A single parent enrolled in college full-time and responsible for a child under the age of 12
“A student must meet at least one of the eligibility criteria, then we look at the regular criteria to see if they are eligible for the SNAP program,” Selena Porter, Craighead County Department of Human Services Coordinator said.
Additional requirements include a monthly income limit of $1,211 for a single person family and a monthly income limit of $1,640 for a two person family, according to Janice Griffin, Craighead County Department of Human Services Administrator.
“If a student is getting a Pell Grant, student loans or scholarships, that income is excluded,” Porter said. “Any income directly related to education is not counted.”
Applicants must verify they have less than $2000 in the bank and provide proof of their last 30 days of income, housing and utility costs and school enrolment. A social security number and driver’s license or photo ID must also be presented at the time of application.
“If (students) bring all that when they apply, it will expedite things,” Griffin said.
The office also sponsored a booth at the August 21 ASU Community Fair, where over 50 SNAP applications were given out. “We’ll probably start bringing the truck every year, because we had such a good time talking to students,” Griffin said.
Students from out of state can also be potentially eligible for Arkansas SNAP benefits, according to Porter.
“As long as the student is living here now it is fine,” Porter said. “Of course, they can’t be receiving benefits from out of state as well. It has to be consistent with their place of residence.”
SNAP cannot be used for the purchase of tobacco or alcohol products, or any non-food item.
Recipients of the program are issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or EBT card, which functions similarly to a debit card. The EBT card allows the holder to transfer government aid directly to merchants in exchange for foods purchased.
College meal plans are not covered under SNAP, and any student receiving a meal plan is not eligible for the program.
“I don’t know if there are any downsides of being on the program, it would just be something you had to choose,” Griffin said.
The Craighead County office serves more than 15,000 SNAP beneficiaries, and distributes 1.9 million dollars in nutrition aid per year.
The Craighead County Department of Human Services is located at 1600 Brown Claim Access Rd. in Jonesboro, and applications are also available online at access.arkansas.gov.