Baker Center Food Pantry

The Ohio University Baker Center Food Pantry. Photo by Ben Peters

The number of Ohio University students eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits was greatly expanded in the most recent federal stimulus package.

About 5,000 students across all campuses are now able to receive benefits on an electronic benefits transfer card to be spent at grocery stores around town or at the East State Street farmer’s market, according to Interim Associate Dean of Students Kathy Fahl.

Under the old system, students were required to be employed to collect benefits, making it challenging for many who were eligible, Falh said. The expansion opens eligibility to students who are work-study eligible but may not be working. Students with no expected family contribution (EFC) are also able to receive benefits, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The amount of money students can collect each month hinges on the number of dependents they may have. Individuals get a monthly payment of about $230. Since SNAP depends on visa status, it’s much more difficult for international students to receive benefits, but Fahl still recommended that they reach out to Athens County Job and Family Services to determine if they’re eligible.

“A lot of our students currently are struggling like a lot of the country because they have jobs that maybe have disappeared or have fewer hours, and even their family have been impacted. And so maybe they were getting support from a parent that is just no longer there for them, and so this will be really significant,” Fahl said.

The change to SNAP will remain in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.

Fahl suggested that students who are unsure of their eligibility reference their online student center to review financial aid information and determine if they’re work-study eligible or have no EFC.

Once students determine that they’re eligible, they can call Athens County Job and Family Services to apply for benefits. Students in need of assistance determining their eligibility can contact the Office of the Dean of Students, which manages the campus food pantry, among other social services. The university has already directly emailed all the students who are eligible.

“Sometimes students in particular feel embarrassed about needing help with things like groceries or basic needs, and so really we’re trying to present this as just another resource that’s out there for people who are struggling because of the pandemic,” Fahl said.

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