Expanded food benefit eligibility for students to end on May 16

Judah Duke

The federal government’s temporary SNAP eligibility extension allowed students to enroll in food benefits, but will end on May 16.

“Gov. Cuomo expanded SNAP eligibility to include nearly an additional 75,000 students,” Suha Chaudhury from Swipe Out Hunger told The Ticker. “The expanded eligibility allowed additional criteria to be included when determining SNAP eligibility.”

Before the pandemic initiated the extension, students had to meet criteria such as working at least 20 hours per week, caring for a child or being unable to work.

The extension lasts for 30 days after the government lifts the public health emergency. It is set to expire on April 16, which leads to the end of the new eligibility additions on May 16.

Hunger can be detrimental to any student’s health and opens doors for diet-related diseases, depression and anxiety. In addition, students’ academics are likely to suffer, as fatigue caused by a lack of essential nutrients can lead to poor concentration in the classroom, according to health experts.

Malnourished college students is a chronic problem on college campuses, and according to CUNY’s partner Swipe Out Hunger, one in three college students faces food insecurity nationally. The pandemic instigated a sharp increase in the conditions that put students at risk of food insecurity.

“The pandemic has actually severely impacted food security among college students,” Chaudhury said. “In fact, the HealthyCUNY survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on CUNY students showed that levels of worry about running out of food because of lack of money were more than three times higher in 2020 than in their 2018 survey.”

Swipe Out Hunger is a nonprofit organization that helps students at colleges navigate government SNAP benefits through different food assistance programs.

The Student Food Navigator Program helps CUNY students access necessary resources and gives navigators like Chaudhury the opportunity to guide students through the eligibility requirements.

CUNY Student Food Navigator Manager Jack Pellicano described the extension’s effect on the fight against student hunger in CUNY schools.

“Swipe Out Hunger’s CUNY Student Navigators witness firsthand how the pandemic expansion to SNAP eligibility has been game changing for students accessing the program over the last year, as it eliminated cumbersome barriers that preclude many students’ enrollment into SNAP,” Pellicano said in a statement for The Ticker.

Students who can’t regularly work 20 hours a week don’t meet the typical work requirement, which leaves out students in “informal economies,” according to Pellicano.

“These restrictive requirements make CUNY students reliant on student loans to meet their basic needs, ensuring we pay steep interest on this debt for years to come,” Pellicano said. “Our hope is that the SNAP expansion is extended again and that USDA ultimately moves to permanently codify the ruling.”

For the students who don’t qualify for assistance from SNAP, colleges often set up food pantries. However, the Baruch Pop-Up Pantry was temporarily closed. When the campus reopened, the school planned to reopen the pantry, but as of now it remains closed.

The Baruch Online Food Pantry provides some students with staple foods. Students may also pick up “Grab & Go” bags at the Student Health Center.