By Carin Holmes
Assistant News Editor
Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller and Dr. Tanya I. Garcia, Pennsylvania Department of Education Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education, announced on Feb. 8 that SNAP benefits would be temporarily expanded to assist college students.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program that helps low-income individuals buy food. Through SNAP, qualifying individuals are provided with funds that they can only use only to purchase fresh food and groceries. This program provides individuals with more purchasing power, giving them a greater ability to purchase the food they need.
Prior to this temporary expansion of benefit eligibility, Pennsylvania followed federal guidelines, which did not allow students between the ages of 18-49 who were enrolled more than half-time in college to receive SNAP benefits.
If a student’s family qualified for benefits, the student would not receive benefits unless they worked an average of 20 hours or more per week, participated in a state or federal work study program, had a disability or were the parent of a child younger than six years old.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, and one of those things is the student’s ability to work, which would help them to receive SNAP benefits.
“Jobs that students would normally work on campuses or around schools may have reduced hours or are not an option anymore,” said Miller. “Students and families with more limited resources may be struggling even more to meet their most essential needs.”
Since February of 2020, SNAP enrollment statewide has increased by 4.9%, bringing the enrollment total to over 1.8 million Pennsylvanians. Since the pandemic began, member food banks of Feeding Pennsylvania have seen a significant increase in the amount of need for food assistance with an average increase of 65%.
“We see a proportionally larger percentage of students utilizing the food pantry each year,” said Leah Cassellia, the Senior Director of the McFarland Student Union and Student Involvement at KU. Cassellia oversees the operations of the Bear Essentials Food Pantry on campus and the student representatives in the Lutheran Center’s food pantry.
“This is a step in the right direction in supporting food insecure students,” she said. “It will provide more food to students in need and support their academic progress.”
Any KU student is able to get food from both food pantries, regardless of their income or meal plan. Students in need of food can go to the Bear Essentials Food Pantry in the Office of Student Involvement (MSU 153) Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Students can also go to the Lutheran Center, a satellite location of Friend, Inc., a few houses down from the admissions building Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.