Every day, Christal Yu sends about 10 text messages and emails to other students about pantries, rental assistance, or cheap textbooks. A student at Borough of Manhattan Community College, she reconciles schoolwork and the role of student navigator, guiding peers to critical resources.

One of his biggest priorities right now is to bring about a big change to one of those resources: the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Student hunger estimates vary, but according to a recent poll by Chegg, one in three students has experienced food insecurity since the start of the pandemic. Previous surveys ranged from around 10% nearly half of the students signaling food insecurity, depending on how hunger was measured.

Despite the differences, experts agree that student hunger is a problem. This is why the recent temporary extension SNAP eligibility is so vital for students, experts say.

But expansion will only be effective if students know it, which is where student leaders like Yu come in.

What you need to know about the new SNAP rules

The SNAP extension, which is part of the pandemic relief bill passed by Congress in December, took effect in January – and will remain in place until the public health emergency is lifted. .

What exactly got bigger? Two new criteria make it easier for students to access food benefits. The changes make an estimated 3 million more students eligible for aid, according to a estimate from the Century Foundation, a left-wing think tank. Now, low-income students may be eligible if they qualify for a state or federal co-op program (they do not need to work to receive benefits) or s ‘They have one “expected family contributionOf $ 0 on their federal financial assistance form. (It is not too late to complete this form. federal deadline for the FAFSA is June 30.)

The SNAP app includes other criteria, such as income limits set by your state, so a CFE of $ 0 does not automatically mean you can receive child support. You will also need to make sure that you meet the other criteria. Start by checking your state SNAP, but keep in mind that many states may not have updated student eligibility rules.

The SNAP program, sometimes known by its old name of food stamps, is the most stable way to tackle food insecurity, experts say, and they are urging students to apply for their state’s benefits.

“Students shouldn’t have to choose between going to class and being able to afford their next meal,” says Ashley Burnside, policy analyst at The Center for Law and Social Policy.

But the app can be intimidating and confusing, which is why some colleges have designated people to help students. Baylor University, for example, is currently preparing a team to promote SNAP, says Michelle Cohenour, director of student success initiatives. For help applying, find out if your college has a Basic Needs Office, or ask your Dean of Students, Student Affairs, or Multicultural Office to talk to.

Help on college campuses goes beyond the traditional pantry

Even though students are not eligible for the SNAP program, colleges still try to keep students from going hungry. Many colleges offer dietary programs that students can access by filling out a short admission form or meeting with a Basic Needs Coordinator on campus.

The FRESH Basic Needs Center at the University of California at Irvine, for example, hosts a pantry, meal scanning program, fresh produce from a partner farm, and assistance in claiming state and federal benefits. Undocumented students can also get help. The pantry has handled more than 6,400 visits so far this academic year, said Andrea Gutierrez, director of the Hub. It is the most used of all the services available, even with fewer students on campus.

The Baylor University Pantry is one of several programs on campus to ensure that all students have enough to eat.

Courtesy of Baylor University.

Baylor University offers a pantry, eight campus fridges stocked with snacks, a free farmer’s market once a semester for all students, and a portable pantry twice a semester, says Cohenour. (The latter is on hold during the pandemic.) The university faculty senate also recently funded a meal purse for this semester, which Baylor hopes to continue if additional funds can be raised.

Some colleges are alerting students to leftover food from campus events – although the pandemic has canceled many. At the University of Northern Arizona, students can learn more about Louie’s remains via push notifications from a mobile application.

Yet even with all of these resources, one of the first tasks is simply to define the problem and raise awareness, says Stacy Raphael, director of case management at To augment, a student-run organization that campaigns for access to university.

This is because many students do not even realize that they fit the profile of food insecurity, which could mean you cut back or skip meals because you’re worried about money or just can’t afford balanced meals.

National student organizations raise awareness – and meals

Colleges don’t do all of this work alone. In fact, it is often student-led groups that lead the way. Yu, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College, trained in her role as a navigator through a partnership launched in January between colleges at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Eliminate Hunger, a student initiative against hunger.

Swipe Out Hunger is working with student groups nationwide to help more students access meals on their campus. One way is to use coupon scanners, typically run once or twice per semester, where students donate leftover meal vouchers from their meal plan to a meal voucher bank. Donated coupons are then loaded onto eligible student cards for the dining room or pantry.

The pandemic has prompted some colleges to prioritize pantry groceries over dining room products for students who wish to avoid the dining hall, says Tenille Metti Bowling, communications director at Swipe Out Hunger. But even with students who study remotely or live off campus, many campuses have still managed to hold successful electronic scan readers. UCLA racked up 38,000 scans at the start of the pandemic, she said. And University of MinnesotaThe swipe program has partnered with Grub Hub to deliver hot meals to UMN students across the country.

Swipe Out Hunger already has programs on 130 campuses in 40 states. And this year, the non-profit organization’s swipe program will expand to an additional 100 campuses thanks to a partnership with Sodexo, the food service company serving these campuses. Sodexo has undertaken to donate part of the swipes. Aramark, another food service company, is also partnering with Swipe Out Hunger on some initiatives.

Rise has deployed its own student browser network in June, helping 8,000 students in all 50 states locate resources so far.

“We have worked with students who have difficulty accessing food, housing, transport, medical care, mental health care, glasses, books, WiFi… the whole range,” Raphael explains. . Along the way, the Navigators help students develop their research skills so that they are able to defend themselves on their campus.

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Students should think of food aid like school counseling

Student navigators are essential in helping those in need, because talking to a peer helps students feel more comfortable, Yu says. She currently manages a workload of 60 students.

Navigators not only help find and connect students to resources, they can also help address the stigma associated with using food banks or pantries. In the Chegg poll, 64% of students cited the stigma associated with visiting a food bank.

But it’s important for students to know that food insecurity contributes to stress and poor mental health, which impairs students’ ability to study, experts say.

“We want our students to think of food resources the same way they would think of academic counseling or tutoring,” Cohenour told Baylor. “We never think of students looking for these resources. “

Gutierrez at UC Irvine reminds his students that eating food is part of an important success strategy for graduation.

“I like to tell students that this is a safety net that you have while you are on campus because we are committed to helping you graduate,” she says.

If you’re a student struggling to afford regular meals, talk to someone on your campus. Start with the Office of Basic Needs or Student Affairs to learn more about campus, community, and state resources, experts say. If that sounds intimidating to you, you can sign up to work with a student browser at Rise. And if you’re ready to start an anti-hunger program at your college, contact Swipe Out Hunger for advice.

This story has been updated to clarify how Aramark works with Swipe Out Hunger.

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