Do College Students Qualify for Food Stamps?

May 7th 2016
Most college students don't qualify for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, if you are a college student with extenuating circumstances and meet certain criteria, you still might qualify for SNAP. Typically, students who qualify work long hours, have dependent children or are completing government-approved training. Read on to see if you qualify for food stamps as a college student.
Food Stamp Qualifications for College Students
Before applying for food stamp benefits, it's important to investigate if you qualify. All SNAP recipients must meet certain income requirements. They must also be able to provide supporting financial documentation, a Social Security number and proof of citizenship or legal immigration. College students who qualify for SNAP benefits fall into one or more of the following categories:
  • Single parents who are also full-time students may qualify for benefits if they care for a dependent child under the age of 12.
  • Students who also care for a dependent child under the age of six can qualify.
  • Students who care for a dependent child over five but under 12 years of age because they cannot afford childcare may qualify for benefits.
  • College students who work at least 20 hours per week may qualify for nutritional help.
  • Students who participate in work study programs that are funded by the state or federal government might qualify. 
  • Students who receive public assistance from a Title IV-A program could qualify for SNAP benefits.
  • College students who attend school to fulfill the requirements of certain government training programs may also qualify for SNAP assistance. These programs are intended to train low-income individuals, so they can find employment.
Applying for SNAP Assistance
If you suspect that you qualify for food stamps, you can begin the application process. Most states allow you to submit an application online, but you should be prepared to meet with a SNAP worker to provide additional information. Search for your state's public assistance website to find out how to begin the application process. Students should expect to bring copies of their FAFSA, their financial aid letter and class schedule. Proof of dependent children, tax returns, wage stubs and proof of enrollment may also be required. 
Even though SNAP is a federally funded program, each state administers the program for its residents. Therefore, the supporting documentation you must provide may vary depending on your location. Some states have additional requirements for college students who would like to apply for public assistance. Although it will take a month for your application to be processed, emergency SNAP may be available within seven days for qualified applicants.
Receiving and Using Benefits
Within 30 days, your application for SNAP benefits will be processed. If you are denied benefits, you should receive a letter detailing why you do not qualify. If you think there was an error, you should contact your state's public assistance office. If you are approved for benefits, you should receive an EBT card within the 30-day period. 
SNAP benefits can only be used to pay for specific food items. Nonfood items, such as household cleaning supplies or clothing, cannot be purchased with your EBT card. While many large grocery stores accept SNAP benefits, not all grocery stores will. To find a list of retailers who accept your SNAP benefits, you can visit the USDA website.
While most students won't qualify for food stamps, some college students may legally receive SNAP benefits. If you think that you might qualify, you should go to your state's public assistance website for more information. On the website, you can read all of the restrictions that apply in your state and start the application process. Once your application has been approved, you can expect to receive your benefits within a 30-day period.
  • Students who qualify for SNAP often have dependent children, are already on public assistance or work long hours.
  • Individual states process food stamp applications and may have a stricter qualification process.
  • Plan on providing supporting documentation to qualify for benefits.
  • It will take 30 days to receive SNAP benefits.

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