I Used SNAP Benefits in College and I’m Proud of It

Jenesis sits at a table outside with a laptop and a mug in front of herI Used SNAP Benefits in College and I’m Proud of It

By Jenesis Long, MAAPS Academic Counselor, Oregon State University

Being an OSU Honors college student from a low-income family, with a FAFSA EFC of $0, came with a unique set of challenges. Even with earning high grades that helped me get scholarships, working two work-study jobs, and going to every free event where food was provided that I could – I still needed more help to ensure my basic needs were met.

I had heard of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits available but had no idea if I would qualify or how to complete the application, so I postponed really looking into it out of fear. I even sacrificed eating regularly and didn’t always buy required textbooks to afford food and avoid accessing this resource.

The idea of needing SNAP (which used to be called Food Stamps) was just really hard for me to come to grips with. I spent hours trying to convince myself I didn’t really need it, that I’d be okay. I remember my roommate offering me food and asking if I’d go out with her to dinner and even offering to pay for my meals so we could hangout (food was a huge source of community!). I finally recognized that it was time to stop letting my pride get in my way and learn how to apply for SNAP benefits and accept that I really did need this service. So, I applied online and hoped for the best.

I was in my bedroom when the phone rang for the follow-up call to my application for SNAP benefits, and my heart was racing. I had no idea what to say (or not say). I didn’t know what they were looking for or what the rules were for eligibility. I was working on campus, so did that mean I wouldn’t qualify for the program? I earned scholarships that helped with my tuition, did that mean I “made too much” for help? I was just hoping that my situation would be “good enough” for their program.

Looking back, I wish I had accepted support more readily. I was so nervous for that call and had no clarity on what to expect. Knowing now that there are resources for OSU students that are seeking SNAP benefits makes me so happy!

If I had been more open to support back then, I definitely would have reached out to learn more about what the process would be like so it didn’t take up so much mental energy to prepare for. After going through what ended up being a pretty brief interview, I was granted the full amount of food benefits possible, I was SHOCKED! It would have taken me an extra 25-30 hours a month of work to earn those same dollars for food. SNAP benefits helped me to regularly have food at home, and provided me with a sense of stability that I couldn’t have achieved on my own while balancing going to lectures and labs, doing homework, working, sleeping, exercising, preparing for my career through internships, and trying to spend time with my friends and family.

Jenesis at an outdoor event with three friends(attending an OSU Football game with my roommate and our friends)

I used to be too fearful to use the HSRC resources. I never even went in to see the space or meet the people who worked there until I had been at OSU for two full years. When I did finally go in, I met welcoming and friendly people. I learned about all the resources available to students like the textbook lending program, the food pantry, and comfortable, safe spaces to spend time and meet new friends. I decided right then and there that I was a forever advocate and supporter of the HSRC.

Jenesis in graduation garb with her friend Alexsandra, also in graduation garb

(celebrating earning my bachelor’s degree at graduation with my friend, Alexsandra Cortes, CAMP – academic counselor)

After graduating from OSU with my honors bachelor’s degree in psychology, I went on to earn my masters of education in college student services administration and now serve as an academic counselor for a program that supports first-generation and low-income students, just like I was. I no longer need the support of SNAP, but am so thankful that I utilized that program when I needed it because it is one of the many support systems I needed to get me to where I am today.

Jenesis with a staff mentor on campus

(celebrating earning my master’s degree with my mentor, Kim McAloney, EOP – Academic Counselor/Academic Engagement Coordinator)

Now as an academic counselor, I tell all of my fellow academic counselors and advisors about the resources available at the HSRC and encourage them to make referrals to their students. As part of the training our staff of academic counselors did, we went and visited the new HSRC space in Champinefu Lodge and we all were delightfully greeted by a home-y, comfortable, welcoming space.

If you or someone you love is an OSU student with questions about how the HSRC can help you, what SNAP benefits are and if you qualify, or want to connect with other people who might be able to understand your situation and support you, I encourage you to contact the HSRC.

 

Human Services Resource Center

Champinefu Lodge
1030 SW Madison Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97333
Send Email
Phone: (541) 737-3747

Email:

hsrc@oregonstate.edu
hsrc.foodpantry@oregonstate.edu (for anything related to the food pantry – Please see the Food Pantry page for pantry hours, etc. )

Can Food Insecurity Impact Your Health?

by Linh Ho, HSRC Intern

For low-income individuals and households, health issues and food insecurity are things that tend to go hand in hand. Food insecurity can be generally defined as “the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources” (Healthy People 2020). If you’re skipping meals regularly, or eating less than you might normally eat because there’s not enough money or not enough food in the house, it’s very possible that you fall into the category of being food insecure. Food insecurity comes with a potential for many health problems, and has been strongly correlated with negative health outcomes for both adults and children alike.

When people aren’t access fresh and nutritious food, their quality of life and health can take a serious turn for the worst. Unfortunately, fresh and nutritious foods can be much more expensive than foods that we often consider to be unhealthy, like junk food or fast/convenient foods. Food insecure individuals also tend to have to face the dilemma of having to decide what their income will be going towards each month. For many people, it becomes a competition between food and housing costs, food and school costs, food and medical costs — the list goes on (Feeding America).

So, what usually happens is that food insecure people will go with the cheaper, less nutritious food option because it means they will be able to pay for their other costs of living. However, although cheaper, junk and fast foods when consumed too regularly can lead to chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Or, the opposite might occur and people will end up spending most if not all of their money to feed themselves and their families, especially if they have children. In that case, then they will likely forgo other important but not “urgent” medical expenses, such as doctor’s appointments, health insurance, and even prescription medication. Either way, having to choose between one or the other may have pretty negative consequences for physical health.

In addition, this chronic stress and worry over whether or not you will be able to afford food, housing, school, or other basic life needs takes a toll a person’s mental health as well. Research conducted by Dr. Andrew D. Jones at the University of Michigan found a causal association between food insecurity status and poor mental health (Science Daily). This is likely because being food insecure can cause feelings of stress, alienation, shame, and guilt often associated with anxiety and depression. Having to find and use alternative methods of obtaining food can also come with social stigma that can create feelings of inadequacy or embarrassment.

All in all, food insecurity and health can because of a vicious circle of not so great consequences. The thing is, your health absolutely does not have to suffer, just because you’re in a tight spot with money. There are so many choices, especially as a student here at OSU.

If you’re struggling with affording food, consider one of the following options:

  • Stop by Avery Lodge for one of our Shopping Style Food Pantry events for canned and dry goods, produce, and even butter and eggs!
  • Come to the HSRC during business hours (and non-Food Pantry event days) for an emergency food box and we’ll try to meet your needs.
  • Consider applying for SNAP benefits to help pay for groceries each month.
  • Stop by the HSRC if you have questions or to see how we might be able to help you further!