Being in college and having an empty wallet tend to go hand-in-hand. A full course load can make it difficult for students to find steady work, and in many college towns the work that’s available isn’t going to pay for very much. But while my fellow students were undergoing (legal) drug trials and donating whatever bodily fluid they could get a few cents for, some in the current generation of cash-strapped collegians are turning to food stamps.
Actually called, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food stamps have long been a stable in lower-income communities where people use them to buy groceries.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, which administers the program, announced that a record 45.8 million Americans had used food stamps. And according to the deputy director of legislative affairs and communications for the Georgia Department of Human Services, a growing number of students have been enrolling in SNAP.
“If (an applicant) is working at least 20 hours per week and meets income limits, they can qualify … and college students are eligible,” she tells CBS Atlanta. “And there has been a significant increase of use in the program over recent years.”
CBS gives the example of Georgia State University, where a basic meal plan can run a student around $1,700.
“I honestly got tired of paying that amount of money per semester just to eat,” says a Georgia State student. “I did not even know that I was applicable for food stamps until someone told me about the site and to apply to see if I would get it… Since then, I have saved a ton of money.”
Food stamps have come under scrutiny in recent years, with the fast food industry pushing for SNAP funds to be used at their eateries (currently only available in a handful of states). Additionally, some loopholes — like the one that allows Oregon SNAP members to use funds to buy Starbucks coffee so long as it’s a Starbucks in a grocery store — have fueled opponents of the program.