Let’s face it- college isn’t exactly the best stage of life for your health. All the stress, late nights, and unhealthy cafeteria food really add up. What if you found out that college students can get free groceries to help make up for those unhealthy habits?
College is a fun time full of learning and growing. However, it can be ridiculously expensive. Getting some help with groceries sounds pretty nice, huh?
On top of couponing and student discounts, there’s a better way for you to get discounted- or even free- groceries.
First let’s start with SNAP. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and it’s a great option for many people.
This program offers free food to eligible, low-income individuals and families. Once you apply and get accepted, you get an allowance based on your financial need. This allowance is electronically transferred to an EBT card.
Once you have this EBT card, you can use it at grocery stores and farmers’ markets that partner with SNAP. You can use this card to get plenty of the basic foods you’ll need. Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, bread, cereal, and dairy products are all included in the SNAP program.
So, what does all of this have to do with being a college student? Well, after the Covid-19 pandemic some things have changed.
The Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act allowed a lot more room for financial aid for people. For just the SNAP program alone, 6 million more college students can receive benefits!
There are only three main qualifications. First, you have to be enrolled in a higher education institution at least half-time.
For most colleges, this is about 6-8 credit hours. So you could get free groceries by taking as little as two classes!
Don’t forget your FAFSA…
To receive discounted groceries, you have to have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0. This number is how much your family is willing and able to pay for your tuition. This is correlated to your FAFSA form.
Your EFC is used to calculate how much financial aid you can receive. This number tells your school how much they should offer you in financial aid. If you’re unsure what your EFC is, you can see it on the financial reward letter from your institution, or on your Student Aid Report (SAR).
This document should be emailed or mailed to you after you fill out the FAFSA application. If you don’t have the document, you can always request it from your school.
If you have any EFC at all and are worried you won’t qualify, there’s one exception. Those eligible to participate in a state or federal work-study are also eligible for free groceries! Keep in mind, you don’t have to participate in these work studies necessarily. You just have to be eligible for them in most states.
These are new exemptions that expand the eligibility to more people. This is temporary, so now is the best time for you to apply! Hop in on this deal before all of these exceptions expire.
And finally, in order to be eligible, your income has to be under 185% of the federal poverty level. This may sound like an absurd amount, but think about how little you have as a college student compared to other adults. You have to make under $23,206 per year or $1,967 per month.
This is available to anyone ages 18-49. It’s also available for you no matter what higher education program it is as long as it requires a GED or high school diploma.
How long will this be in effect?
All of this is great news, but it’s important to know that it’s labeled as temporary. These exemptions will not last forever.
This was spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic and all the financial issues that came along with it. No one knows how long this will last, so it’s important to apply as soon as you can if you think you’re eligible.
College students can get free groceries until 30 days after the federal government lifts the Covid-19 crisis. When the Covid-19 emergency is declared over, there will be updates on the Food and Nutrition Service page.
Things to keep in mind…
There are a few things to keep in mind as you apply and receive your benefits. You have to keep up with a few things in order to continue receiving help with groceries.
SNAP benefits are even available throughout the summer. The thi enrolled in an upcoming term. Make sure you enroll as early as possible to secure these benefits over the summer!
Students with Meal Plans
If you are a student with a meal plan, you will not be eligible for SNAP. The only exception to this is when you are getting half or less of your meals with the meal plan.
However, even if you do sign up for a meal plan, you might be eligible for SNAP over summer break during your time off.
Attending training programs permits you to qualify for SNAP as well. The only catch is that the institution or organization must require you to have a GED or high school diploma. If it doesn’t require these things, it’s not considered a higher-learning institution.
Students That Still Live At Home
If you want to receive SNAP benefits but still live with your parents, there is a catch. Even if you prepare your own food, your parents must be in the SNAP program for you to be eligible. This only lasts until you are 22 years old.
For married students, the same goes for you and your spouse. Your whole household must be in the SNAP program for you to receive your benefits.
Nearly everything about college is expensive. Tuition, housing, books, supplies, etc. You don’t need to add groceries to that list anymore.
This temporary extension of help may not be available for long, so don’t wait. The best time you can apply is right now.
College students can get free groceries- and you can be one of them! Don’t miss out on one of the best deals out there to help you successfully make it through college.
For more college tips, check out our article Everything You Need To Know About Federal Student Loans.