Temple Student Government hosted an information session about student food insecurity and eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on Thursday.
SNAP is designed to help low-income people who struggle to to pay for food purchases, said Oneita DeBrady, a social work intern who works in the College of Public Health’s Social Service Annex. More than 1.8 million college students who were eligible for SNAP in 2016 did not receive benefits, according to a December 2018 report from the United States Government Accountability Office.
One of the main reasons for this is a lack of knowledge about SNAP among students, DeBrady said, along with an unwillingness to seek help paying for food because of judgement from others.
“They struggle with the stigma of being in need of what people call ‘welfare,’” she said. “This is a public assistance benefit, and so sometimes people are embarrassed that they’re actually struggling with food insecurity or any other need.”
Students can be eligible for SNAP benefits if they are enrolled in a work study program, work at least 20 hours a week, take care of a dependent household member under six years old, or are placed in a college through an employment and training program under the Food Stamp Act, DeBrady said.
TSG held the informational session for students who may be struggling to meet their nutritional needs. Student Body President Gadi Zimmerman asked the Social Service Annex staff to speak during the event to educate students about SNAP benefits in a Q&A setting, said Valarie Clemmons, director of field education for the School of Social Work.
“Part of what we do at the Social Service Annex is that we provide resources to students and so it was a great fit for us to have an audience this size to do it,” Clemmons said.
There were 15 attendees at the session in Morgan Hall on Thursday afternoon.
In 2017, one in three Temple students was food insecure within a 30-day period, according to a report from The Hope Center, which conducts national research on challenges students face while pursuing their degrees.
In response to the report, Zimmerman said his administration has focused on student food insecurity as one of its main platform points.
“[We’ve] been really passionate about raising awareness on food and housing insecurity,” he added. “It’s another resource for students to utilize that isn’t necessarily on campus, but that some students could be eligible for.”
TSG’s current administration, IgniteTU, hosted a three-day food drive as a part of the university’s Hunger Awareness Week, worked with university officials to create the Cherry Pantry, Temple’s on-campus pantry for students in need, and partnered with Challah for Hunger to fund the pantry, among other drives to keep it stocked with non-perishable food and hygiene items.
“One of the things [IgniteTU] tries to do on campus is, we destigmatize the issue,” Zimmerman said. “We want to make sure that students know what it means to be food insecure and that you shouldn’t be ashamed to be food insecure.”
BecomingTU, TSG’s incoming administration, plans to continue food insecurity awareness initiatives by continuing to support the Cherry Pantry and furthering plans for a “Swipe out Hunger” program, in partnership with the university and Aramark. The program would allow students to donate unused meal swipes to those who need them.
Benjamin Ulmer, a sophomore risk management major, said he didn’t know much about SNAP, but heard about it during TSG’s recent debates for the 2019-20 executive team. A friend recommended Ulmer attend the event to learn more.
William Lalli, a sophomore business administration major with a concentration in international finance, came to Thursday’s event for the Fox Leadership Development Program, which teaches Fox students community engagement, global awareness, personal and professional development, and financial literacy skills.
“It’s a topic people don’t always want to talk about,” Lalli said. “It’s an important topic that needs to be discussed and people get more information about it, so we can learn how to combat issues like that.”