During and After College: Check Out SNAP If You Can’t Afford Nutritious, Safe Food

Times are tough. Summer jobs for currently enrolled students are hard to find, and their fall financial aid and student loans are at least 90 days away. For this spring’s graduates, in just three months we’ve gone from the best to worst job market in years. All this makes it difficult to afford a truly basic necessity: food!

Many colleges and universities operate food banks and other services to help their students fulfill this essential need. But if such services can’t do enough for you, or if you’re no longer in school, you may also be eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

What SNAP Is

SNAP a joint federal-state program designed to help financially needy Americans buy healthy, nutritious food with food stamps worth up to $194 per month if you’re single and don’t have children; as much as $646 per month for a family of four.

You may use these stamps at the grocery to buy bread, cereal, dairy products, fish, fruit, meat, poultry, and snack foods. But you can’t use them for beer, food prepared for immediate consumption, liquor, tobacco products, or wine.

SNAP Eligibility

To get SNAP’s food stamps, the federal government requires you to:

  • Register for work;
  • Participate in employment or training programs if your state requires you to do so;
  • Accept employment if it’s offered to you; and
  • Not voluntarily quit your job or reduce your work hours.

To get food stamps for more than three months, you must be working or participating in a work program for 20 or more hours per week if you’re able-bodied and have no dependents.

SNAP Websites

More information on SNAP is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP website. State governments administer SNAP, and some have extra SNAP eligibility requirements. To find out about these, and to learn how and where you can apply for SNAP, link to your state’s SNAP website.

Using SNAP is OK

Most students and recent graduates never even consider SNAP. But these are extraordinary times, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to utilize food stamps. After all, you’re not alone. Over 36 million Americans are unemployed. And even before coronavirus, Temple University’s HOPE Center surveys of over 330,000 students at more than 440 colleges and universities found that 39% of those students had suffered food insecurity — i.e. limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe food; or the inability to get such food in a socially acceptable and legal manner — during the month before completing their surveys.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! And keep yourself well-nourished so you have the energy to pursue your degree and seek employment. If SNAP can help you do that, apply for it!

Need help making your limited financial resources stretch to cover all your basic needs? Let College Affordability Solutions advise you on managing your money. There’s no charge. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com.

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