Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, recipients can now apply to receive replacement benefits for food lost or damaged in the winter storm, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Feb. 19 press release.
SNAP is a federal program that supplements the food needs of low-income people through monthly electronic debit cards, which can be used to buy groceries. Texas Health and Human Services received federal approval for the replacement of SNAP benefits lost in the winter storm Friday, according to the press release. Those eligible can apply for replacement benefits by calling the 2-1-1 line, according to the press release.
"I thank our federal partners for swiftly approving SNAP benefit replacements for food lost or destroyed in the wake of this winter weather disaster," Abbott said in the press release.
In January, SNAP temporarily extended its eligibility due to COVID-19 to include more college students, including those with an expected family contribution of $0 for this academic year. Previously, college students were eligible for SNAP if they participated in work study. Now, students who qualify for work study but do not participate can still receive aid, according to the USDA website.
The United States Department of Agriculture implemented this change through The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. The temporary terms will expire 30 days after the federal government lifts the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to the USDA website.
“It’s difficult for college students right now to be getting these jobs under work study,” professor of pediatrics Steven Abrams said. “The benefit to UT students is they don't have to necessarily be holding a position right now in the work study program.”
SNAP benefits can help with long-term food insecurity, as opposed to a food pantry, which serves more short-term needs, Abrams said.
The average SNAP recipient received about $1.39 per meal in 2018, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Abrams said this extra cash can also help students and their families if the student is living at home currently.
“There are quite a few students who are eligible for it who won’t know about it,” Abrams said. “Students should take advantage of it and not feel like, ‘Oh gosh, why am I — as a college student — having to take food stamps.’”
Raj Patel, a research professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said more students are struggling with food insecurity and unemployment due to the pandemic. He said many students’ food insecurity goes unnoticed and forgotten.
“It was one of the most heart stopping moments of my teaching career when I heard from students that, ‘Yeah, obviously we skip meals because we can't afford them,’” Patel said. “At some level I knew that there were students doing that. But to have some of my students who I was in the orbit of confess to it and just shrug it off was, I mean, it just took my breath away.”
Megan Gray, an assistant professor of pediatrics, said students may be hesitant to use SNAP due to the negative stigma around food stamps, but it is an important resource.
“I think any amount of help for food insecurity is a positive thing right now,” Gray said. “Hopefully normalizing this and making it more available can only be a positive thing for students.”
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 23 print edition.