A new report released by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University offers guidance to state lawmakers and college leaders seeking to close the “college SNAP gap,” the number of students eligible to receive federal food benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who do not receive them.
The report, released Monday, notes that a national student survey conducted by the Hope Center in 2020 found that only 18 percent of students who reported experiencing food or housing insecurity were enrolled in SNAP. Meanwhile, 26 percent of students facing these challenges said they hadn’t even heard of the program. More than half of students with basic needs insecurity, 55 percent, reported they knew about SNAP but hadn’t used the benefit.
“Students who are potentially eligible for SNAP face significant obstacles, including lack of knowledge about complex program requirements, stigma around applying for public benefits, and bureaucratic obstacles,” the report reads.
The report recommends that states use financial aid data to identify students who might be in need, limit bureaucratic language in SNAP applications and partner with community organizations or that have liaisons to colleges who can help with outreach to potentially eligible students. It also notes that state lawmakers have significant flexibility when it comes to who qualifies for SNAP without meeting a work requirement of 20 hours per week, a common obstacle for students.
The report also suggests colleges use students’ applications for federal financial aid to identify those who may be eligible for SNAP benefits and communicate with them about whether they qualify.
“Working together, institutions of higher education, states, and community organizations can close the college SNAP gap and build an effective basic needs ecosystem around students so that they can focus on their academic success,” the report says. “Students deserve nothing less.”