Food stamps benefit students despite negative stigma

After class, many students hurry to their collegiate abode for one thing and one thing only – food.

After rummaging through the fridge and seeing the same empty corners and baking soda box, they ponder on a solution.

The first thought might be to head to the grocery store and pick up some food, but those who are hindered by financial limitations may find this a bit challenging.

One alternative many college students are turning to is food stamps. The Food Stamp Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This program provides food to low-income citizens in the United States.

The Department of Children and Families mandates that college students ages 18 to 49, who are registered as at least part-time students in either a college or institution of higher education, are eligible for food stamps.

They must also do one of the following: receive public assistance benefits under a Title IV-A program, take part in a state or federally-financed work study program or work at least 20 hours per week.

Derrick Williams, a fourth-year engineering student, explained how helpful food stamps have been to him as a college student.

“This is my second year using food stamps, and since I started, I have been able to use the money that I would be spending on groceries for other things like gas and supplies for my major,” said the 21-year-old student from Orlando.

Although there are benefits to participating in the Food Stamp Program, there are some who object to the idea of using food stamps and only see the negative stigma associated with them.

Ashlae Butler, 19, a second-year pharmacy student from Tampa had some strong reservations about food stamps.

“I don’t think it is too bad for college students (to use them), because they are already sucking us dry with other expenses, but I don’t agree with the people who are just living off the system, while there are so many people out there that work hard and still can’t afford to get what they need,” Butler said.

Though food stamps can be of great assistance to well-deserving and eligible students, it can also amount to a few free meals for those who do not qualify or are just cheating the system.

While some students share Butler’s sentiments, other students beg to differ. Sky Conley, 21, from Chattanooga, Tenn., shared his perspective on this issue.

“The system is already messed up, so I think black students should take advantage of the system anyway that they can,” the third-year sociology student said.

“There is no real way to cheat the system unless you’re selling food for cash, and I don’t see anything wrong with that either. Who is it hurting?” Conley said.

With the negative labels often linked to food stamps and the people who use them, some may be easily embarrassed about needing assistance.

“I don’t really feel embarrassed when I use the (food stamp) card, but people do call me out and ask me why I have it,” Williams said. “I just explain that I needed help and met the requirements. There is no reason to be ashamed of being in need.”

“Personally, I wouldn’t be embarrassed, but I understand how others might feel uncomfortable having other people know that they require a little extra support,” Butler said.

Despite some negative opinions of food stamps and those using them, they continue to be a good source of assistance.

For more info on eligibility requirements and the Food Stamp Program, visit DCF at