Students are getting the bum end of the deal—when it comes to food benefits, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Oregon, students must meet at least one of nine criteria to be eligible for help. The flawed criterion is number 2: being a paid employee working an average of twenty hours a week. The other eight regulations make more sense, and suggest that an applicant is in need. But when you work at least 20 hours per week, you are also likely making at least $150 or more per week. Ultimately, SNAP may be kicking the hungry students to the curb. Ideally, the state would notice this—but it’s pretty unlikely that anything in society will ever be logical.
The system assumes that a student receives financial aid, which should help them get by during the school year, and this does apply to many. Unfortunately, not everyone is a “traditional” student and the process of applying for food benefits needs to take this into consideration. Some students, like myself, are unable to receive a maximum financial aid package. This means that I have enough aid money for rent, books, and maybe a few bills. Some students barely get enough to pay tuition.
The SNAP application asks about all bills and income—including financial aid, scholarships, and outside funds. However, the information can be meaningless in the current system, because if the student doesn’t have a job—or does, but can’t get 20 hours per week—their application is thrown out the window. To be an efficient and fair system, the income-to-debt ratio should be the first thing considered when looking at a student’s application; this will ensure that the hungry, poor students get the help they need.
I understand that the point is to make students at least try to earn their own money so that they don’t become accustomed to living on the government’s dollar—but not all of us have parents that can support us while we’re in college. Furthermore, the job market is harsh for Corvallis students. Every year the student population increases, which means more people fighting for a small number of jobs. And I recognize that we can’t just go throwing money into the system to help pay for every student’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But considering that an unemployed person who isn’t a student can get full food benefits, it seems obvious that, with the necessary exceptions, unemployed students should get the same consideration.
By Cristina Himka