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Student Attitudes and Usage of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)

7 May 2014


[From the introduction]

Since 1961, food stamps, currently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, have been assisting low-income households (Timeline). SNAP gives low-income households the ability to increase their food expenditures, curbing fears of food insecurity. With the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977, the program expanded to include full-time post-secondary students. To qualify, a student must have a federal work study job (FWS) or work at least 20 hours a week (Johnson). Student usage remained low and largely unnoticed until the last decade, when several state governments experienced sharp increases in participation. Tight budgets are forcing governments to make cuts; and it is important that inefficiencies are cut out of programs to maximize program success. Low income students should continue to receive benefits as SNAP seemingly provides a two-pronged benefit: On one side helping students afford healthy, well rounded meals, while simultaneously making college more affordable.

The student population possesses several qualities distinguishing them from other SNAP recipients, as many students come from affluent families, and only temporarily reside in low-income households. Other students lack the education necessary to make proper dietary choices, resulting in the purchase of high caloric items with poor nutritional values. The goal of SNAP is to increase nutrition, not to allow participants to splurge on items such as sweetened beverages, snack food, and entertainment. SNAP’s connection to FWS also mitigates some of the concerns about the program: FWS directly targets low-income families, with monthly benefits reducing the need of student loans and the fear of future debt. This increases the appeal of attending college, making SNAP a useful tool for increasing student food expenditures, improving dietary outcomes, and making college more affordable.

To research the question of whether or not students should continue receiving benefits an anonymous survey of Pacific University students was conducted. The survey asked questions revolving around food security, food expenditures, college affordability, health habits, and personal attitudes towards student usage of SNAP. Sample averages were then compared between three subgroups: those currently participating in SNAP, those eligible and not participating, and those ineligible. The study concluded that SNAP participants where a needy population, did not abuse program benefits, and increased the affordability of college. An expanded analysis is presented throughout the reading; beginning with the background of SNAP as a whole, an expanded methodology section, and then a presentation of the comprehensive results and analysis.


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