Food insecurity among college students rise with emergency SNAP benefits rolled back

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The non-refrigerated fruits and vegetables isle at the UNLV food pantry. Photo by Kalin Sipes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, but these emergency benefits were rolled back on March 14. Many recipients of emergency SNAP benefits were left unaware. Under these expanded emergency benefits, more college students were qualified to receive SNAP benefits, but now they may not. 

In Nevada, 1 in 9 people face food hunger. According to the Food and Nutrition Service, “SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.” 

The ending of emergency SNAP benefits could decrease benefits, on average, by 80-90% for working families and seniors. Part-time college or university students who had an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 and were eligible for state or federal work-study were qualified under emergency SNAP benefits, but now, they may not. College students who have to allocate a significant amount of their paycheck to tuition are the same population that could benefit from SNAP.

Food-insecure students on campus can turn to the UNLV Food Pantry, where canned and packaged food can be found. Fresh produce is also housed in the pantry. Carmen Johnson, the director of the UNLV Food Pantry said, “The only thing we can do to prepare for that is to make sure we have food here for people to get.” One regulation to the UNLV Food Pantry is that it is only available to UNLV students, staff and faculty.

However, the monthly farmers market is open to everybody; serving meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, and other food items. Romina Ballesteros, who manages the monthly farmer’s market, anticipates more attendees given the emergency benefits ending.

The ending of the emergency SNAP benefits comes at a time of record-high inflation and rising gas prices, pushing UNLV students that are living paycheck to paycheck further into poverty. 

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services Division of Welfare and Support Services has a webpage on SNAP that explains when the emergency allotments were started and the date that they are ending. In addition, it provides links to Nevada food pantries like Three Square and Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The Food and Nutrition Service’s SNAP webpage has frequently asked questions and provided answers about eligibility requirements.Information about the next farmer’s market can be found on the UNLV Food Pantry’s Instagram page and the UNLV Food Pantry is located at 4646 University Center Dr. Las Vegas, NV 89119 United States.

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