The struggling, hungry college student subsiding on ramen noodles or scouring for free pizza at on-campus events has permeated pop culture, but going hungry has deep physical, emotional, and academic effects on students. Hundreds of thousands of college students experience food insecurity every day, a condition characterized by disrupted eating patterns and reduced quality and quantity of diets. With roughly half of college students earning a degree on time, and serious disparities for African American and Latinx students, policymakers must consider campus hunger an integral part of our lagging student success rates.
Nationwide, 82 percent of college students who qualify for SNAP benefits don’t receive them. The number of eligible students who do not receive federal food assistance varies from state to state, but even in the state with the highest levels of SNAP participation, New Mexico, only 35 percent of eligible students receive SNAP benefits. Missing out on federal SNAP dollars not only lets down struggling college students, it is also fiscally irresponsible.
Based on our investigation into this issue, we identified three key policy solutions to make sure more eligible students are able to access SNAP:
- Federal government: The federal agency responsible for SNAP should improve how it communicates eligibility to college students.
- States: States should take the steps necessary to ensure that students have the information that they need to enroll in their states SNAP program
- Institutions: Schools should increase their efforts to inform students of SNAP eligibility