Wednesday, November 17, 2010

College students using food stamps

As financial burdens loom over student’s heads, food stamps are a viable option.

The never-ending list of expenses for college students can be combated with food stamps provided by the Department of Social and Health Services said a working WSU student.

Nationally, about nine million students filed federal student aid forms in early 2008 which was over a 16 percent increase from this time the year before, according to

Candice Kalb, a junior movement studies major said she uses her allotted food stamps to save some money each month and pay her bills.

“I receive $183 a month in food stamps and use them to buy things I absolutely need when I need them, said Kalb. “Its nice to be able to get the necessary items and not have to worry about whether or not I can afford them.”

According to USA Today, in 2009, 86 percent of students and 81 percent of parents said financial aid would be very necessary to pay for college, up from 85 percent and 79 percent the previous year.  

This increase, undoubtedly a result of the economy struggles, can explain the increase in food stamp use, said Ray Sterling, general manager at Safeway in Pullman, Wash.

“I don’t know exact numbers but I know there has been an increase in the usage of food stamps at our store in the last few years,” said Sterling.

In order to receive food stamps as a student in Washington State, you must be working at least 20 hours a week making less than $1,200 a month according to Kalb. There are exceptions, but essentially you must be working and going to school full time.

In the past year, the price of groceries has risen almost 5 percent, the highest increase in nearly two decades according to USA Today. In fact, some have risen even 30 percent.

“I think a lot of college students don’t actually know that they can obtain food stamps if they are working,” said Kalb.

Jackie Helm, a junior fine arts student agreed that this service should be more widely publicized, and wishes she knew about it when she lived in an apartment last year and was eligible.  

“I wish I could’ve done something like that because it was really hard to get a hold of my parents for some extra money for food,” said Helm. “I also felt bad asking for it because they were paying for everything else.”

Removing the pressure of extra expenses like groceries for the week was something Helm regarded as a huge benefit of this program.

“It definitely wouldn’t have made money quite as tight, that was the one thing that I worried about each month,” said Helm. “I had to talk to my parents, and have them transfer money over and I would never know how much I needed.”

Food stamps for students are a great way for families to focus more money on larger expenses.

According to USA Today, when students and their parents were asked what their biggest concern about college was, 37 percent said that although they (or their child) would most likely get into their first choice of college, because of their financial situation, they aren’t sure if they could go.

“I do believe that more people are using food stamps because the economy is bad,” said Kalb. “My thoughts are, if the state is willing to pay for my food while I go to school, let them.”

Candice Kalb, 253-579-8644 
Jackie Helm, 509-879-4811 – in person
Ray Sterling – 509-334-0803

Tanya Schevitz. Student aid requests soar as economy plummets. SFGate. Aug. 11. 2008.

Mary Beth Marklein. Economy influences college choices. USA Today. Mar. 29, 2009.

Associated Press. More college students turn to food banks. USA Today. July. 26. 2008.

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